Coronavirus – focus on healthcare staff

 

Sir, – I would like to make a case against using the term “heroes” to describe frontline health workers. Hero is a dehumanising term, insofar as it brings to mind the superhuman powers of immortal beings. Moreover, the term implies that the individual in question has made a choice, and that their extraordinary sacrifice has been made freely, even gladly.

The reality is that our health workers are ordinary people who are highly trained and skilled to do very difficult tasks under immense pressure. They are not superhuman, and they should not be asked to sacrifice their health – or lives – to do their jobs.

They should be paid and staffed properly, and, most importantly, they should be given the required resources, such as masks, gloves, gowns and rapid testing, so they can complete their work safely.

When politicians and media throw around militaristic terms such as “hero”, this encourages us to accept an unacceptable level of risk. It subtly creates twin myths, both of which are damaging: that healthcare workers are super-heroes who won’t get sick; and that if they do become ill, at some level they chose this path.

Instead of buying into these fictions, I would urge everyone to remember that healthcare workers are just people trying their best to do their jobs, and afterwards to get home safely to their family and friends.

I am reminded of how carers sometimes complain about the discourse that praises them as “angels on earth” – when the truth is that they are ordinary people who are left to look after their loved ones, often with inadequate supports from the State. Instead of reducing their suffering by providing more care hours or equipment, society just gives them a pat on the head and tells them that they’re special for tolerating their situation.

I would like to say to Leo Varadkar (and others): instead of showering these platitudes on our healthcare workers, please urgently provide safer working practices. These should include adequate staffing, reasonable rosters, and necessary equipment – not just during this crisis, but into a sustainable future, to reduce permanently the system’s expectation of staff sacrifice. – Yours, etc,

GRÁINNE TYNAN,

Sandymount,

Dublin 4.

Sir,– In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, Treoir, the National Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children, has received a greatly increased number of calls from unmarried parents about access and custody orders in the wake of social distancing recommendations by the HSE. In the last week, the vast majority of Treoir’s calls are from concerned unmarried parents in relation to access and custody to their children.

Parents are justifiably concerned about the safety of their children during the Covid-19 crisis and are attempting to limit contact with others as per the guidelines. However, where possible, we would encourage unmarried parents who are not living together to maintain access and custody arrangements so that children can continue to have a relationship with both parents.

Difficulties in stopping or reviewing access may have a huge impact on children who may already feel anxious due to school closures and feeling isolated from their friends and family members.

The current crisis could provide an opportunity in some cases for parents to increase contact in order to support primary carers who are doing much of the parenting particularly while schools are closed. People need to follow guidelines in order to safeguard older relatives or those at risk, but it is important court orders granting access are respected, unless there are public-health reasons for doing otherwise. Unmarried parents can be creative and imaginative in finding ways for all parents to stay in touch with their children.

Treoir recognises this is a difficult time for unmarried parents and would urge people to communicate respectfully with each other around access. In a time of crisis it is important to understand each other’s anxieties and to assist the other parent with their parenting role.

Treoir staff will continue to provide information to unmarried parents and to the organisations and professionals that work with them. – Yours, etc,

DAMIEN PEELO,

Chief Executive,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – With the ongoing viral spread of “experts” online, social media distancing is highly recommended at this time.– Yours, etc,

BRIAN AHERN,

Clonsilla,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – Bad as things are, wouldn’t they be a lot worse if we were facing into the depths of winter in these circumstances? At least we have the bright evenings, which will be even brighter next week! – Yours, etc,

MARGARET BUTLER,

Booterstown,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – We are learning anew that relationships are fundamental, that we desperately need to be close to each other, but for now, we need to play our part and stay apart. This crisis is forcing us to learn how to live with ourselves, so we can be better with others. – Yours, etc,

SALLY HYLAND,

Artane,

Dublin 5.

Sir, – At this time of crisis, I suggest that the Minister for Finance should allow our citizens to access a portion of their pension funds, in all their varieties.

This can be seen as once in a lifetime event and no income tax charge should take place.

A tax-free lump sum of €25,000 perhaps?

At the stroke of a pen, the Minister could remove the short-term financial stress that many families will find themselves in in the tough months ahead. – Yours, etc,

ALAN MORTON,

Managing Director,

Moneywise Financial

Planning Ltd,

Fitzwilliam Square,

Dublin 2.