Nurses express concern about high Covid rates in profession

INMO says coronavirus infections among nurses in Ireland far higher than in other countries

General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO)Phil Ní Sheaghdha will meet the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) this week. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO)Phil Ní Sheaghdha will meet the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) this week. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Nurses are to meet with the State’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) this week over the high incidence of Covid-19 in the profession.

Minister for Health Simon Harris agreed to set up a meeting during talks on Tuesday with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), according to its general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha.

Ms Ní­ Sheaghdha wrote to Mr Harris last week complaining that the Health Service Executive (HSE) was not answering a number of questions about the prevalence of coronavirus among nurses.

In Ireland, 32 per cent of all coronavirus cases have involved healthcare staff.

Around 35 per cent of those healthcare workers were nurses, according the INMO, a rate which it says is far higher than in other countries.

“The HSE has said to us they believe fatigue of the healthcare worker is an issue that influences [infections],” said Ms Ní­ Sheaghdha.

“If that is the case we need to look at where the infections are happening, and then what we can do to prevent [it].

“If we need to relieve staff for a period to ensure they can robustly go to work with the correct protective gear and that they are relieved to make sure fatigue doesn’t set in, well that’s what we need to do.”

After meeting with Mr Harris, Ms Ní­ Sheaghdha said he “understands our position, I think it is fair to say, and he has agreed that he will facilitate a meeting with the HPSC this week so that all of those questions that we have posed can be answered”.

The HPSC is charged with tracking the spread of coronavirus.

The INMO needs to know “where is the outbreak, how is it happening and in what circumstances”, Ms Ní Sheaghdha told RTÉ’s News at One.

Another issue is that nurses are “not confident” they are getting instructions on when and where to use personal protection equipment (PPE) while working, she added.

A further meeting between the INMO and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs about plans for childcare for nurses is also being planned, said Ms Ní­ Sheaghdha. “Currently there is no assistance,” she said.