Nurses using annual leave for childcare

They feel "abandoned" during pandemic - INMO
  • Deborah Condon

Most nurses and midwives are using up annual leave to care for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.

It carried out a survey of 1,826 members with childcare needs and found that 62% have taken annual leave to care for their children, while 22% have used paid childminders of some sort.

Among those who have used paid childminders, the majority have paid over €100 a week above their usual amount so that they could attend work.

A further 10% of nurses and midwives are using grandparents to care for their children.

The survey also found that 69% of nurses and midwives did not have a partner available to look after children, often because they were a single parent, or their partner was also an essential worker.

One survey respondent voiced her anger with the situation.

"I am in community nursing. My husband is a Garda. The stress on us with three school-going children has been immense in every sense. I don't really want to hear the government thanking us and calling us heroes. They have neglected this huge issue.

"We need help with childcare now - financial assistance specifically. This is not going to change in the next coming months. The problem will remain if the schools only open part-time. This issue has been handled disgracefully," she said.

According to INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, nurses and midwives feel "abandoned".

"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," she commented

The survey results are being presented to the Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 Response on Tuesday. The INMO is calling for the Oireachtas Committee to recommend a range of measures, including:
-Reimbursement of any additional childcare costs incurred during COVID-19
-Compensation for annual leave used to care for children
-A scheme to pay healthcare workers for any childcare they source themselves
-Priority access for nurses and midwives when it comes to access to preschools, creches and childminding
-Reopening of schools to facilitate children of essential workers.

"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 10 COVID cases in this country are nurses. We must support them better," Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

Also commenting on the issue, INMO president, Martina Harkin-Kelly, said that there has been an "abject failure" to provide adequate childcare to frontline workers.

"Our nursing and midwifery members feel let down as parents. Our members want to do their jobs as professionals without impediment.

"The INMO's Executive Council's view is that this remains a critical issue for our members. A solution must be found quickly to ensure continuity of safe patient care," Ms Harkin-Kelly added.


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