The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is calling for an independent investigation into the infection of health workers with Covid-19.
More than 25,000 healthcare workers have been infected since the pandemic began in Ireland last March, amounting to roughly one in eight of all cases.
General Secretary of the INMO Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the organisation called for the Health and Safety Authority to have a role in determining safety measures for healthcare workers as far back as last March.
She said this did not happen until the EU introduced a biological hazard agent on November 24, over six months later.
“During that period there was no independent scrutiny of healthcare worker safety. Our view is, no more than any other workplace, where there is a biological hazard, it must have independent scrutiny to ensure the principles of safety are applied,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha told Morning Ireland ahead of the Oireachtas Health Committee meeting today.
The INMO felt it was not the priority of the HSE to “protect to the maximum” the healthcare workers that were putting themselves at risk throughout the pandemic
“Therefore, the HSA, the statutory body with this responsibility, should be investigating outbreaks and clusters at all times to ensure the State.. is ensuring the maximum protection is being afforded to healthcare workers,” she said.
The INMO have called the vaccine rollout among healthcare workers “haphazard” due to the lack of focus on the locations or workplaces with the highest infections.
Many workers were booked in for vaccinations and then were told by their line managers that the rollout wasn’t happening today; we had huge issues with sequencing etc.” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.
The majority of the 25,000 healthcare workers infected with Covid-19 have been nurses and midwives.
“They want to be assured when they go to work, because they have continued to go into these high risk situations and many of them became infected. Many are suffering the longer effects of Covid and their view is more has to be done to absolutely ensure that these mistakes don’t happen when they are avoidable,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.
The INMO are also applying to the HSE for a compensation scheme for healthcare workers to receive a financial reward and time off once the pandemic has finally been brought under control in Ireland.
“We’ve lodged a claim with the HSE for compensation for lost time - many of our members have worked over and above their working hours. We’re hoping that when the vaccine brings an end to the absolute pressure cooker that is the health service right now, that workers will be given time to recuperate”.
A survey conducted by the INMO on its members has found that the mental health issues experienced by its members, brought on by working through the pandemic, are “very serious”.
“A host of studies across the globe are very worrying withregard to burnout and we have to avoid this. We have to look after those who put themselves at high risk in this country.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said there has been widespread reports of chronic fatigue, sleeplessness and the intention to leave their jobs among those surveyed.