A growing number of trade unions are joining the call for measures to control the increasing numbers being infected by the omicron variant of covid.
At the end of March the general secretary of the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation, Phil Ní Shéaghdha, in a letter to the ICTU, explained how our public health system is experiencing overcrowding and severe pressure, partly because of the removal of the requirement to wear face coverings. “Since the mask mandate was removed on February 28th, we have seen 8,953 patients without a bed in Irish hospitals. 27% of those who have been without a bed in our hospitals since the mask mandate was dropped have presented at our hospitals since last Monday [21 March]. This is staggering.”
She explained that many health workers are not receiving basic work-place entitlements, “with recent surveys showing 98% of members in Emergency Departments were unable to leave work on time, and 91% stating they were working or available during their scheduled breaks.”
In a challenge to all trade unionists, Ní Shéaghdha said: “The links between mask-wearing and decreasing COVID transmission are well established. In absence of government taking action and responding to the calls of the INMO, we believe it is imperative now for the trade union movement to do what the Government will not and call on people to go back once again to basics: wear masks when indoors, on public transport, and in a crowded setting.”
Decades of under-investment and giving priority to private medicine over public has led to this health crisis. The current government health strategy is to further promote private medicine and run down the public health system.
The need for a fully funded free public health service, from Derry to Kerry, has never been more exposed as it has been over the course of the covid pandemic. We need to take into public ownership all private medical facilities, and to exclude all private medical services from the public health system.