'extraordinary battle' | 

Irish hospitals not safe for patients or staff due to Covid-19 surge, INMO warns

Phil Ni Sheaghdha, the INMO General Secretary, said that the pandemic was not over.

The INMO has warned that the latest wave of Covid-19 means hospitals are not safe for patients (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dominic McGrath, PA

Hospitals are not safe for patients or staff, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has warned.

Phil Ni Sheaghdha, the INMO General Secretary, said on Sunday that thanks to soaring Covid-19 cases, the health service is no longer a safe environment for healthcare workers or vulnerable patients.

“The important point is that the pandemic is not over,” she said.

“We’re very concerned about the focus at the moment on a general view that the pandemic no longer exists. Well, in Irish hospitals and in Irish healthcare facilities it most certainly is an extraordinary battle on a daily basis.”

INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha (PA)

She said that staff were telling the trade union that hospitals were not safe, with Ireland recording tens of thousands of cases of Covid-19 in recent days and hospital numbers climbing to nearly 1,500.

“The HSE’s own figures and the outbreak incidences are way too high,” Ms Ni Sheaghdha told RTE radio.

She said that “more has to be done” by the HSE and the Government.

“If staff are saying this is how unsafe it is, well, then everybody can’t remain silent.

“It’s unsafe for staff. It is most certainly is unsafe for patients. That should be a concern.”

A reduction in the seven-day isolation period has been mooted as a way to solve the mass absences due to Covid-19 that have hit key sectors, including the health service, in recent weeks.

Ms Ni Sheaghdha rejected such a proposal as a bad idea.

“I think the answer here is not – should we compromise care and should we put cross infection on the lesser footing. I think that would be a mistake.”

Instead, she pointed to simple measures such as increased mask-wearing as one way to reduce the spread of the virus.

Ms Ni Sheaghdha told RTE radio that negotiations continue with the Government over a planned €1,000 bonus payment for healthcare workers as a mark of their contribution during the pandemic.

“Progress is being made, but there still is a quite a bit to go, particularly in the area of private hospitals, private acute hospitals and practice nurses because the Government excluded them in the announcement that they made and the position of the health service and the Department of Health negotiators is that that’s a Government decision and it hasn’t been altered.

“So that remains outstanding,” Ms Ni Sheaghdha said.

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