Covid-19: HSE says more than 8,000 health workers need childcare support

Health authority says its childcare support survey generated limited information

HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photograph: PA

HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photograph: PA

 

The HSE has estimated that more than 8,000 healthcare staff are in need of childcare support.

The HSE also said on Thursday that its survey on childcare difficulties being experienced by healthcare personnel - on which its assessment is based - had generated “limited” information due to incomplete responses from staff and limitations on health service data systems.

The new HSE figures of 8,000 staff requiring childcare support is significantly higher than it set out originally last weekend.

Last Sunday HSE chief executive Paul Reid said approximately 7,000 staff (from a total of around 140,000) either currently had, or perceived they would have, childcare issues.

At the weekend the trade union Siptu maintained that the HSE figures for childcare support represented an underestimate.

On Thursday, following requests from The Irish Times for access to the full survey findings, the HSE said: “Due to the public health measures, the impact of the creche and school closures, in terms of its impact on childcare needs of the health workforce has and continues to be the subject of cross government consideration.

“As part of these considerations, the HSE undertook a couple of exercises aimed at understanding the extent to which there was demand for childcare places amongst the health workforce.

“One of these exercises, taken at a point in time, sought to estimate the current number of staff for whom childcare commitments has either led to an inability to attend or fully attend work, has limited their ability to commit to increasing hours of work, and those for whom childcare commitments while not currently impacting is likely to do so in the longer-term.

“The information gathered as part of this exercise was noted to be limited due to incomplete response coverage, in addition to limited available data of this nature in existing health service data systems, resulting in an estimate of demand in excess of circa 8,000 public health service employees at final data collection assessment.”

The HSE has not released its full survey findings, including data on the number of staff who could not attend work due to chilcare problems. It said its data remained under the consideration of the National Public Health Emergency Team.

The Government on Wednesday announced plans to provide some forms of childcare support to healthcare workers. However these measures have been strongly criticised by trade unions.

Under the plan, the partners of healthcare workers can avail of paid leave if they work in the public sector.

Those who are lone parents or whose partners do not work in public sector may have to wait until May 5th or beyond for support due to ongoing health concerns raised by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

On Thursday Siptu said the Government’s childcare plans fell well short of what was required by all workers on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis.

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said there was huge anger among his members at the Government plan.

“This childcare issue has been going on for too long as demonstrated by the number of health workers presenting for sick or annual leave to take care of their children. The Covid-19 crisis will be deepened in the coming days and weeks with many health workers unable to attend work through exhaustion and the continued unavailability of childcare.

“Our members believe the Government has completely misread their concerns and produced a policy that will not work for the majority of frontline health and other essential workers. It must immediately agree a more realistic childcare plan with the National Public Health Emergency Team that covers all essential workers in both the public and private sector. Resolving this childcare crisis must be given top priority.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the proposals would, “do nothing for the vast majority of nurses and midwives”. It said they were worse than irrelevant.

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