Care workers need to be protected during Covid-19 crisis
Urgent action needs to be taken to protect front line health care workers from catching or spreading Covid-19.
Senator Rónán Mullen has called on hotels and local authorities nationwide to make a co-ordinated effort to prevent the spread through hospital, nursing home and home-care staff.
“I believe urgent action is needed if we are to avoid needless deaths in the coming days from Covid 19 across a range of care settings," he said. "As the coronavirus takes hold in some nursing homes, there have been cases where healthcare, catering and maintenance staff have left work out of fear of bringing the virus home to their families.
"This haemorrhaging of personnel is obviously going to put vulnerable people at risk. But there is also the risk that elderly or sick people may contract the virus from carers working in a healthcare or home-care setting, who may contract the virus from their own family members or other persons they are caring for."
The senator acknowledged that the health authorities were under enormous pressure at the moment.
"I worry that we may not get preventive action as quickly as possible here," he said. "I am therefore asking hotels around the country, which have closed for business during the crisis, to re-open and to offer temporary emergency accommodation to healthcare personnel working locally in hospital, nursing home or home-care settings, who wish to avail of this.
"I realise that this proposal implies a big sacrifice on the part of carers, many of whom may be people on a low income. But we know that many of these carers live in crowded accommodation. We also know that some healthcare staff are looking for accommodation so that they can avoid infecting their families.
"There will be financial, logistical, insurance and health issues to be considered. But I am asking hotels to step up voluntarily with an offer to help and I believe that local authorities should move in behind them to help co-ordinate this.
"There is no reason why the State should not compensate accommodation providers or provide the necessary logistical back-up. But I think a community response is needed if tragedy is averted. Local authorities and hotel owners should not wait for a call from the State. This is an emergency.
"I am basing this call on expert knowledge available to me from people working to protect public health. I realise that this is a challenging call. But we are already seeing clusters of Covid 19 cases and we are in a highly dangerous situation.
"I also believe there is potential to deploy assistance from the Defence Forces in a number of ways here, possibly in helping to run these accommodation facilities where needed or in the training of home help and nursing home volunteers who may be using personal protective equipment for the first time."
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