Today should be the first day of our Annual Delegates Conference. Members would debate motions, set union policy, elect new President and Vice Presidents, and welcome in a new Executive Council. Of course, as with many things, COVID-19 means that ADC has been postponed until 7-9 October. We thank all the delegates, officers and members – especially in the hosting Sligo branch – for their work in preparation.
Since the last update, we have celebrated the International Day of the Midwife (5th May), demonstrating our pride in the incredible work done by midwives – even in the midst of the pandemic. Next week, we will celebrate the International Day of the Nurse. To mark these days (both in 2020: the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife), we have written to all political party leaders calling on them to make specific commitments to improve conditions for nurses and midwives.
I want to update you on three key issues we have been working on:
1. Implementation of outstanding pay awards
For many members, payment of the first phase of the strike settlement is still outstanding. We have been constantly raising this unacceptable delay at all levels – ranging from the Minister of Health to individual payroll departments. Several workplaces have fully paid the new scale and allowances. Others are slow to even begin. Over the past two weeks, we have made substantial progress in individual hospitals and workplaces, with many committing to payment in the May pay cheques. We will continue to pursue individual employers until every cent owed is paid.
If you are a staff nurse or midwife, and you have not done so, I would strongly encourage you to join the enhanced practice salary scale as soon as possible. For higher grades, we are lobbying hard for the first meeting of the expert group on your pay to take place. The group’s terms of reference and membership are agreed – we now need the Department of health to convene the group so it can start the job.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has tonight (Wednesday) announced a scheme starting on the 18th of May to provide childcare in frontline healthcare workers’ homes. This is a fresh announcement, and we are seeking details on exactly how this will work. What we know is that registered childminders would provide 45 hours of childcare in your home, for a fee of €90 per family per week. Your feedback on this point would be particularly welcome – you can simply reply to this email or speak with your rep. We will keep you updated as we get more details.
Separate to this, we have also been in negotiation for an immediate scheme to ensure full pay and no leave losses for those nurses and midwives who – having exhausted all flexibilities – have to stay at home to provide care for children. We have successfully agreed such a scheme with the HSE.
This allows HCWs who have exhausted all flexibilities to work from home in order to mind their children. In this situation they remain available for work and will be paid salary and allowances. You can read more about the scheme and the kinds of flexibilities you can avail of under that scheme with a HSE circular here and an explanatory memo here.
3. Pronouncement of death
New interim clinical guidance will allow the pronouncement of death by registered nursing staff. This applies in designated, HIQA-registered centres for older persons and people being supported by specialist palliative care services during this pandemic. This interim clinical guidance is for HSE and Section 38 services, but may be adapted by other non-HSE organisations.
The guidance is voluntary, which means that individual services will decide whether to introduce this role. It is voluntary for each nurse, which means you have a choice whether to take on this role - even if your service introduces it.
If you do choose to take on the role, (a) the guidance must be adopted by your service, (b) you must undertake an online educational module, and (c) you must complete a self-declaration of competence. Support is available from your manager if you want to undertake the role and feel you need further assistance. If you have any issues regarding this issue in your workplace, please contact the INMO for assistance and advice.
I hope that the above information is of help to you. We will continue to keep you updated both via email and via our dedicated COVID-19 update page: https://www.inmo.ie/Covid19
Is mise le meas,
Phil Ní Sheghdha.