Unions have welcomed the deal struck with the HSE allowing the voluntary redeployment of health workers to private nursing homes to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, but there has also been criticism of delays in getting those who answered the ‘Call for Ireland’ back into the frontline.
Siptu representatives confirmed that an agreement has been reached with the HSE on the voluntary redeployment of health workers to private nursing homes amid growing fears over the number of coronavirus clusters in those settings.
Inclusion Ireland became the latest organisation to call for immediate Government and HSE action to address the issue, citing figures released on Tuesday which indicated that nearly half of all Covid-19 related deaths here have been people living in care homes.
On the new deal, Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said: “Under this agreement, the redeployment of Siptu members is strictly on a voluntary basis and a volunteers register will be set up in each CHO area. Volunteers will come from across the nursing, healthcare assistant, cleaning, chef, and catering assistant disciplines.
“Our members will remain completely under the management of the HSE and will be assigned for agreed periods of time. They will also be provided with an adequate supply of PPE for their tasks.
“This development arises because of challenges that have emerged in some private nursing homes in relation to staffing and their ability to manage the Covid-19 crisis. We will engage with the HSE and Department of Health for a critical review and analysis of this work when the crisis abates.”
Tony Fitzpatrick, director of industrial relations with the INMO, said the agreement would help in the fight against the spread of the virus but said all the unions were disappointed that only a fraction of the people who responded to the Call for Ireland and returned to serve here have been processed.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “We are disappointed, and we speak for all the unions in this regard.
“As far as I am aware they have only processed about 1,000 people via the Call for Ireland. We haven’t got the breakdown by grades, we haven’t got the breakdown of where they’ve been allocated so we would like to see that process sped up to ensure that we have adequate staff within the system.
“We have to remember that a quarter, one-in-four, of infections are healthcare workers and we are really worried about that.”
He said the INMO had written to the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, and HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry about this and that more needs to be done to ensure that more healthcare workers are coming on stream to help.
Earlier, consultant geriatrician Dr Emer Ahern said efforts are being made to create “a bank of nursing” in Cork to support nursing homes if staff are unavailable through illness or self-isolation. “This is people’s homes and a lot of them want to remain there to receive their care,” she said.
Dr Ahern told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the anticipated surge is not being seen in hospitals, but is being felt in nursing homes and residential facilities.
She said that for the first time there is cross-sector movement of nursing staff. Specialist teams are helping nursing homes with consistent public health infection controls, nursing, and palliative medicine advice.