Urgent childcare arrangements need to be put in place for frontline healthcare workers following the closure of schools for the month of January, nurses have insisted.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), during previous lockdowns, healthcare workers with children were "forced to take annual leave, pay for expensive individual care, or simply not attend work".
The INMO noted that during school closures in the UK, schools and childcare facilities are open for the children of frontline health and social care workers. It said that care must be provided to the children of frontline health staff here.
Furthermore, these workers need a firm guarantee that they will not be financially penalised as a result of working during the school closures.
"The pandemic is back at full force and we need all hands on deck in our hospitals. We must not repeat the mistakes of past waves, we must provide meaningful childcare options for healthcare workers. When schools last closed, childcare was the number one issue raised with us by members," noted INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
She pointed out that COVID has "already decimated our hospital rosters". Currently, over 3,000 HSE staff are not working due to having the virus themselves, or being a close contact of someone with the virus.
"Health service staffing cannot be further undermined by lack of childcare. The UK provided childcare and kept schools open for children of healthcare workers and we should learn from this. The Government should be doing everything in its power to keep healthcare staff in work.
"We are asking healthcare staff to take great risks in providing care. The very least we can do is ensure their children are cared for as they do so," Ms Ni Sheaghdha added.
Union officials are meeting with the HSE and Department of Health on Thursday to discuss this issue.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.