I am writing with three updates on key issues the INMO has been working on: facemasks, childcare and redeployment.
1. Facemask update
One of the key issues members raised with us was the need for a new policy, mandating facemasks (at a minimum) in all healthcare settings for the duration of COVID-19. In my last email update to you, I set out how we achieved that change in policy.
Since then, a number of members have contacted us with concerns that some workplaces are washing, reusing, or otherwise compromising standards around those facemasks. We have intervened to stop that locally, but also wrote to the Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Colm Henry, calling on him to clarify best practice on disposal of masks (our letter is here).
He has now done so, and updated official guidance on the safe disposal of facemasks (both in healthcare and domestic settings) is now available here.
As ever, if you are having difficulties with PPE at work, please raise it with your workplace rep or contact our PPE helpline: freephone 1800 320 087, or text 087 719 7188. This number is staffed between 8:30 am and 8 pm, seven days a week.
2. Childcare issues
Alongside PPE, childcare has been one of members’ main concerns. We have been pushing hard for a proper childcare solution for nurses and midwives.
Several days ago, the Taoiseach announced that those with partners who (a) work in the public sector and (b) are not also essential healthcare workers, can get support for their partner to stay at home to mind children. We publicly criticised this proposal – because it excluded lone parents and many of our members.
We have made some progress in the past day, with the HSE officially confirming that frontline healthcare workers will now be treated the same as other public sector workers when it comes to childcare.
The full document from the HSE is here, but the key points are that:
This will not work for everyone - but it should provide extra security to those who are unable to attend work due to childcare. It should also give you greater grounds to get flexible working arrangements from your employer.
Many members are using annual leave or paying additional costs in order to care for their children during this time. We again advise you to maintain clear records of annual leave and costs incurred. Our view is that it is the HSE’s responsibility to cover these costs and we will continue to pursue this matter with them on your behalf. Further meetings are due to take place in the coming days on these issues and we will update you with any further information.
None of the above is a comprehensive solution to the childcare problems. The INMO is clear that provision of childcare is the best solution. Public health restrictions have not yet made this possible, but we will continue to campaign for it.
Many members in the public sector have expressed concerns about redeployment into private nursing homes during the crisis. It is worth remembering that this process is voluntary and subject to various conditions, which are set out in this letter.
In addition, new guidance on reducing the transmission of the virus makes the case against moving staff excessively around workplaces. You should review this document before making the voluntary decision to redeploy.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha
INMO General Secretary