Nurses, midwives and national priorities

 

Sir, –To adapt an old saw: priorities differ and the quality of patient care suffers!

The Minister’s responses to any pay increase for nurses always takes the same pattern: the public finances could not cope with such increases (€300 million per annum) and the knock-on across the public service.

Contrast that with the figures given in Eoin Burke-Kennedy’s piece (Business News, February 6th) that a variety of tax shelters are costing in the region of €21 billion (yes, billion) annually.

A switch of just 10 per cent in the Government’s priorities would make all the difference.

Time to readjust your priorities, Minister! – Yours, etc,

HARRY McCAULEY,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – No nurse or midwife wants to be on the picket line. We want to be inside caring for our patients. We are fighting for pay parity with other allied health professionals in order to retain our highly skilled newly qualified nurses and midwives who currently leave every year to work in better conditions and for better pay abroad. We want our skills to be equally recognised by the Government after studying for four years and achieving an honours degree, just like our colleagues in other professions, such as radiography, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

We work 13-hour shifts sometimes with no break, simply because to sit and eat is impossible with so much to do and so few to do it. We work nights, we work weekends, we miss Christmas’s, birthdays, christenings and every special occasion in between. We deserve parity and equality.

Every nurse and midwife has many stories of times they have stayed at work unpaid for hours after their shift has finished. This may have been to support their colleagues coming into a full ward with critical staff shortages; maybe it was to hold a dying patient’s hand as they took their last breath; maybe it was because they were too busy all day trying to provide safe care in impossible circumstances that they had to leave their documentation until the end of a shift; maybe it was to sit and grieve with the parents of a baby you delivered who was stillborn; maybe it was because you had to go on an ambulance transfer with a patient a half an hour before your shift ended, leaving you on the road for six hours after your day should have finished.

We chose this profession because we care. We love our jobs. But we are stressed. We are gravely understaffed with retirements, maternity leaves and sick leave never replaced. We are doing our best, but yet we leave work every day and night disheartened at the care we couldn’t give because we didn’t have time to do more for our patients.

I am a midwife five years post-qualification and for the first two weeks of 2019 I earned €1,160.65. I earned €580.32 a week. This is including the extra pay I received for night duty and unsocial hours (weekend work). I get paid to work 39 hours a week so this amounts to me getting paid an absolute best rate possible of €14.88 an hour. As per current HSE salary scales, after working hard full-time since 2013 for the HSE as a midwife, I currently earn less than any other allied health professional who are newly qualified in their first job since finishing college in September 2018.

We have a recruitment and retention crisis in the nursing and midwifery professions.

We deserve parity and equality. Maybe if we had parity, our Irish-trained nurses and midwives would stop leaving and those abroad would come home. More staff will result in safer care for our patients. That is our only goal here – all we want is to be able to provide the safe and high-quality care our patients deserve. – Yours, etc,

SINÉAD KELLEGHER,

Registered Midwife,

Mohill, Co Leitrim.