Tuesday 28 January 2020

'Annihilated' nurses are out on their feet

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Exhausted, burnt out and undervalued was how the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation described the bulk of its members yesterday. They will now ballot on industrial action if demands for increased staffing levels are not met.

Surely this should not be necessary; nurses ought not be required to walk off the job of caring for the sick in order to get the resources and staff required to treat the ill. The organisation believes the profession of nursing is being "annihilated". No sane minister or government would set out to degrade the conditions of nurses to such an extent that they are out on their feet, but this is the reality.

Years of under-investment, poor planning, over-work and lack of resources have had a devastating impact. Liam Doran, the organisation's chief, said that his membership was worn out "papering over the cracks".

The health system is manifestly broken. Cuts down to the bone could never be healed with sticking-plaster solutions.

The history of new health initiatives to ease pressures and tackle chronically long waiting times is not a happy one. Back in 1993, Brendan Howlin launched a waiting list offensive. Then in 2001, the PDs had a go with the establishment of the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

More recently, James Reilly set up a Special Delivery Unit to reduce waiting times for public patients in 2011. All ultimately failed. In 2011, the government also set a target that no one would wait more than nine months for inpatient or day treatment by September 2012. It also failed, so revised targets were set; no patient would wait more than 15 months. New Health Minister Simon Harris indicated that the 15-month maximum-wait time target is now also discarded. The aim instead is to halve the number of people waiting more than 18 months. Unquestionably, more resources and staff are urgently required to meet growing demands and growing populations.

The strategy and long-term vision desperately needed to turn things around is as far away as ever. As procedures are cancelled and pushed back in overcrowded emergency departments and wards around the country, it is the nurses who are left to go the extra mile. Is it any wonder they are exhausted?

Civilians of Aleppo are now fighting against time

AS cluster bombs and napalm rain down on the civilians trapped in Aleppo, the UN’s top diplomat for the Syrian crisis has warned the city will be wiped off the face of the earth by Christmas. The Pandora’s box of horrors visited on the stricken city includes the use of thermobaric missiles intended to stymie mass infantry attacks, but now employed against Syrian civilians. The warheads detonate in mid-air, the force of the blast results in those who are not immediately incinerated being killed when intense pressure causes their lungs to collapse. There are those who argue the West could still bring a halt to the carnage around Aleppo simply by proclaiming the area to be a civilian safe haven. Thus, the Russians might continue the blitz at their peril.

The situation is now so desperate that Staffan de Mistura, the 69-year-old Italian charged with trying to bring peace to Syria, said he was prepared to offer his own body as a “guarantee” if it would convince fighters from the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qa’ida-linked group, to leave Aleppo and thus induce the Russians to stop. The West accuses Moscow and Damascus of using terrorism as a pretext when their real objective is to stomp out opposition to President Assad’s regime. But lost in the middle of the debate are 275,000 civilians who cannot be abandoned.

Irish Independent

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