The nurses have said that the PPE they have been provided with is “not protecting” them.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the Government to declare a National Emergency as Ireland’s Covid situation worsens.
The INMO has called for “emergency intervention” as frontline members are under “unprecedented” pressure.
INMO President and emergency department nurse, Karen McGowan, said: “The message from our members is very clear. The system is overloaded and they cannot cope.
“Decisions at every level are happening too late to prevent infection and overburden. The consequences are increasingly clear – our frontline members are paying the price.”
INMO has called for a number of changes to be made:
- Increased safety standards: Upgrade level of PPE in healthcare settings to FFP2 masks, and an end to policy allowing asymptomatic close contacts return to work.
- Private hospital capacity to be fully nationalised into the public system, providing additional beds and staffing to the service in the coming weeks. Current government plans are to use only a third of this capacity.
- Childminding provision to allow parents of schoolchildren attend work. This could take the form of partial school reopening for families of healthcare staff or an expansion of after-school care. This need is particularly acute among members with children in primary school.
- Healthcare worker vaccination priority to be continued, with a latest date set for when all healthcare workers will have received the vaccine.
- Protections and pay for nursing and midwifery students and interns who are facing high COVID risks on no or unacceptably low pay, in many cases without necessary employment rights and protections.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “This is a national emergency. It should be treated as such. The public health service was not fit for purpose before the pandemic – it is now under a level of pressure not seen before.
“We are at the point where staff are not able to cope. There are huge numbers of very sick patients, with 7,000 HSE staff now out for Covid reasons. Over 2,500 healthcare workers a week are getting the virus.”
The INMO statement can be read in full here.
On Wednesday it emerged that health workers who are close contacts are being called into work due to the absence of over 7,000 health workers across a variety of services due to Covid-19.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 160 patients in Intensive Care Units in Ireland for Covid-related reasons and 14 acute hospitals are listed as having no free ICU beds.
The number of patients with confirmed Covid-19 in hospitals, meanwhile has increased to 1,750.
Speaking on Prime Time on Tuesday night, the National Director of Acute Operations with the HSE, Liam Woods, said the figure for intensive care patients could increase to 300 in Ireland by early next week.