Nurses moved their children and didn't see them for up to eight weeks during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Oireachtas committee on the virus has heard.
Phil Ni Sheaghda, the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), told the committee that nurses made "an extraordinary sacrifice" in order to go to work at the height of the outbreak.
Ms Ni Sheaghdha told the committee that nurses were "meeting resistance" to their children returning to childcare providers.
She said that the public needed to be informed that children of healthcare workers are not infectious and better testing for nurses was needed.
Ahead of the appearance at the committee, the INMO today released the finding of a survey it carried out, which showed that:
- 62% of nurses have taken annual leave to care for children
- 22% are using paid childminders
- 10% are using grandparents
- 69% did not have a partner available to provide childcare - due to being a single parent or their partner is a frontline worker
The INMO has recommended that any expenses on childcare be reimbursed and annual leave be compensated as well as priority access to childcare for frontline workers.
Ms Ni Sheaghda said that nurses now "feel abandoned" and were taking care of children after long overnight shifts.
She said that fatigue was a "huge issue" and impacted infection controls in healthcare settings.
"There has rightly been applause and praise for frontline healthcare workers over the past three months.
Yet when the applause dies down, many will be left out of pocket and without any leave. Our members say they feel abandoned.
“We have long sought a solution to the childcare problem facing our members.
"They want to do their jobs, while also knowing that their children are being looked after. This is not an unreasonable demand.
“Nobody doubts that childcare in a pandemic is a difficult issue, but so far that difficulty has landed on those who are taking the greatest risks during the pandemic.
“One in ten Covid cases in this country are nurses. We must support them better.” Siptu's Paul Bell said that there could be an issue with either accrued annual leave or exhaustion as the country returns to normal.
Mr Bell said that if there is a second wave of the virus, there is a chance that some frontline workers will have no annual leave to take.