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Unions hit out over delay in childcare help for frontline health staff

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Childcare plea: Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Childcare plea: Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Childcare plea: Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

The delay in the provision of special childcare support for frontline workers engaged in the battle against coronavirus has been branded as "unacceptable".

Unions have demanded that plans for providing childcare for medical staff and other workers be unveiled amid continuing uncertainty on the arrangements that will be put in place.

On Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar signalled that a scheme was imminent, but last night the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) had still not given the green light for measures to be put in place.

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "We have been seeking childcare for frontline healthcare workers for three weeks. This ongoing delay and uncertainty is unacceptable.

"Our members have lives and families. They want to do their jobs professionally and unselfishly, but that is becoming increasingly untenable when there is nobody to look after their children.

"Ireland is asking its nurses and midwives to provide care in dangerous circumstances. The very least the State should do is ensure it's not costing frontline workers money to go to work, and provide them with safe childcare options."

A Siptu spokesperson urged the Taoiseach to "push the button" and unveil the childcare scheme for frontline workers as quickly as possible.

He said childcare is one of the top concerns being voiced by healthcare workers in calls to the union's Covid-19 information phoneline.

"I was speaking to a married couple last week who are a nurse and radiographer, work seven days between them and are often rostered to work at the same time," he said.

"They have two young kids, and the radiographer had to ring in sick for the first time in two-and-a-half years because he was not able to get someone to mind the kids."

There have been concerns that childcare workers may be reluctant to volunteer for the scheme due to concerns about potential health risks.

Siptu has said they will have to be paid more than a living wage of €12.30 an hour.

Earlier this week, Mr Varadkar said it was taking much longer than the Government would like to put plans in place and he understood people's frustration.

He said public health is the over-riding concern.

"While we're ready to push the button in terms of providing childcare to essential workers, we need clearance from the public health team that it in itself mightn't become a public health risk or mightn't cause the virus to be spread," he said.

Money

"It's certainly not an issue of money, that's there. It's not an issue of staff available, they've said they'll do it.

"It is now an issue of public health clearance and we haven't quite got that yet."

Last night, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the NPHET had given further consideration to the issue of childcare and that further meetings were planned across Government.

"We understand the issue, and the importance of protecting the workforces, and essential workforce in particularly in the healthcare arena, and we're looking to try and find a solution to that as quickly as we reasonably can," he said.

Irish Independent


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