Childcare and essential workers

 

Sir, – Martin Wall reports that the HSE has notified its staff that essential healthcare workers may work from home where they have childcare issues and all other options have been explored and found not to be feasible (News, January 12th).

I may be old fashioned but I suspect I am not alone in thinking that, should I need the care and skills of essential healthcare workers, I would prefer that we are in the same building.

The issue, of course, is that we have closed our schools and have not made provision for the care of children of essential healthcare workers.

This may ring a bell. During the first lockdown we were confronted with exactly the same problem.

On April 14th, Martin Wall reported that healthcare workers were forced to request emergency annual leave or to call in sick in order to care for their children.

We had various promises of arrangements for the care of the children of such workers.

Nine months later, as we head into what we are told will be the very worst of this pandemic and the demands which this will make on our health service, and it would appear that the only progress we have made is that essential healthcare workers who have childcare issues may legitimately stay at home rather than doing so and pretending to be sick.

Ten months after our first confirmed case of Covid and nine months after childcare first arose as a major concern, has it really not occurred to someone in our central bureaucracy that care for the children of essential workers is itself essential? – Yours, etc,

PAT O’BRIEN,

Crossmolina,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – I am deeply perplexed by the stance of the teaching profession in this country. How can it be that the schools in Northern Ireland remain open to assist the families of vulnerable children and those of essential workers, yet the unions here are silent as to how they could assist these groups.

There is not even the beginning of a conversation on this subject, never mind any concrete help for children and their families.

I am a frontline health worker, and as of this week myself and my husband will have to use our annual leave to stay at home to look after our four school-going children, one of whom is in his Leaving Certificate year.

In Northern Ireland, learning is now online for all children, but schools remain a place of safety and supervision for vulnerable children and children of essential workers.

How on earth are frontline workers in this country supposed to manage this situation in the short to medium term, without support from the teaching profession and Government?

The clinical service I provide for children and adults with special needs will be suspended while I am on annual leave, as there is no one to replace me in my role.

I do have one proposal. I suggest the HSE begin vaccination of all special care assistants and teachers immediately, so as to eliminate the argument currently being used that it is too unsafe for these workers to return to their roles.

I suspect that whatever happens, my own family will eventually recover educationally from the disruption this whole crisis has placed upon them.

But my heart goes out to the parents of children with special educational needs who must feel totally neglected and abandoned by the teaching unions at the moment.

I think it is a disgrace. – Yours, etc,

Dr CATHERINE

JORDAN,

Senior Dental Surgeon,

Ballyhaise,

Co Cavan.