Nurses suffering with long Covid to get prioritised care

Nurses suffering with long Covid to get prioritised care

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Association said its members had been severely affected during the pandemic — at one point making up 10% of all Covid-19 cases. Picture: iStock

Nurses suffering with long Covid are to receive fast-track access to care under guidelines being drawn up by the HSE, the nurses' union has said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Association (INMO) said its members were severely affected during the pandemic — making up about 10% of all Covid-19 cases at one point. 

The high levels of infection were partially linked to structural failings in the health system, with overcrowding and narrow corridors common in many hospitals.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “Many members have or are suffering the effects of long Covid, persistent and often debilitating symptoms of Covid infection which last far longer than the virus typically would.” 

Care guidelines for stricken nurses

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE is now in the final stages of drafting guidelines around expedited care for stricken nurses.

This will initially include a referral process through the workplace with priority care in specialised services.

In a message to INMO members, she said: “They are recruiting a lead manager for this project as we speak. Additional physios are also being recruited who will work directly with occupational health departments, exclusively on long Covid cases.”

Scathing Hiqa report 

A report from the health watchdog Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) published earlier this week noted that old buildings and failing infrastructure hampered infection control across the system during the pandemic. The report notes a lack of single rooms in acute and community hospitals, meaning it was challenging to keep patients infected with Covid-19 separate from each other.

The ability to manage infection control was measured across 18 rehabilitation and community inpatient healthcare services. The watchdog found many positive outcomes but noted significant challenges for staff caused by their surroundings. 

Among the findings were some services did not have a designated cleaners' room, there was a lack of appropriate storage for cleaning materials in others, and limited access to sinks. 

They called for “a significant amount of funding” to improve this. Among the services assessed were:  

  • Fermoy Welfare Home in Cork; 
  • St Joseph's Community Hospital in Ennis;  
  • St Patrick’s Hospital in Waterford, which caters for acute and community patients.

Hiqa also said they received 293 complaints during the year from patients and staff across community and hospital care.

This included concerns about the lack of PPE for nursing staff during the pandemic, as well as overcrowding and long waiting times for patients.

The scathing Hiqa report however also discusses the potential for reforms under the Sláintecare model to improve matters for patients and staff.

The report says: “We also believe it will better enable an integrated model of care, where service users are treated at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, efficient and as close to home as possible.”  

Meanwhile, the country's trolley crisis continues to worsen, with 369 patients on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed on Wednesday. University Hospital Limerick and Cork University Hospital were the most badly affected, with 43 and 31 patients on trolleys respectively.

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