Coalition committed to ‘recognising’ work of health staff

Taoiseach’s address to INMO forum signals effort ongoing as how best this could be done

The conference on Friday is set to hear from nurses who will describe persistant symptoms months after they contracted coronavirus. File photograph: The Irish Times

The Coalition is committed to recognising the "great dedication" of nurses and all healthcare workers during the pandemic, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

In an address to the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on Thursday he said work was ongoing to determine how best this could be achieved.

The INMO last November lodged a claim with the Health Service Executive seeking 10 days additional leave for its members in compensation for work carried out during the pandemic. The union will consider an emergency motion calling for compensation for frontline healthcare workers on the second day of its annual conference on Friday.

INMO president Karen McGowan urged the Government to move on from considering its compensation, or recognition proposals, and begin implementing them.


Mr Martin said the roles of nurses and midwives had undergone considerable change over the past year. He said nurses and midwives had demonstrated huge innovation and responsiveness in bringing care to people who needed it.

The Taoiseach said the Government is committed to continued development of the profession.

He said the number of nurses and midwives working in the health service is at its highest in more than a decade. Mr Martin said at the end of March there were almost 41,000 nurses and midwives working in the public system with 2,105 added in the last 12 months .

Separately, the INMO said that frontline nurses and midwives experiencing long-term Covid-19 symptoms are not getting the medical or employment supports they need.

The conference on Friday is set to hear from nurses who will describe persistent symptoms months after they contracted coronavirus. These include extreme exhaustion, brain fog, breathing difficulties, heart problems and vision impairment.

The conference will hear calls for tailored medical supports and a guarantee that healthcare workers with long Covid will not face income cuts, but that they will be able to avail of flexible rehabilitation back into work.

A nurse with long Covid,Eilis, said: “I caught Covid at work, but after a few weeks the symptoms weren’t going away. They have now lasted for over a year. We didn’t know much about Covid at the start of the pandemic so there has been a lot of uncertainty. I never used to be on medication, now I am on a lot. ”

The INMO said that more than 7,500 nurses and midwives had contracted coronavirus in Ireland.

Call for support

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said coronavirus can be a long-term, debilitating illness and that people need to know where they stand, medically and in terms of work.

“The HSE need to lead the charge on this and implement the measures that our members are calling for. This is a condition people are acquiring at work and their workplaces need to step up and give them the support they need.”

The Taoiseach told the conference he wanted to acknowledge student nurses who continued their education throughout the pandemic.Mr Martin said to support them the Government is implementing the report drawn up by Prof Tom Collins late last year, including a €100 per week pandemic placement grant.

He said the Government had also commissioned a longer-term review of student allowances and internship pay to support them through their education.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent