Militant Left spoke to healthcare worker Kelly about how the pandemic has affected her and other workers.
1. How were you affected by the pandemic as a healthcare worker?
I had to isolate myself from my family who I lived with for the months of lockdown as I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t bring anything home. As I attend patient’s homes, my hours of work began to fluctuate; calls were cancelled with patients who were either high risk for COVID-19 or ‘low risk’ if they did not receive care, as the hospitals were cleared out we were told to expect more hours but many of those patients were funneled into private nursing homes. Colleagues of mine who had symptoms were required to isolate while they waited for tests back and so those calls had to be covered. This meant our hours could differ wildly from one month to the next, being expected to work 12 days consecutively or three hours a week.
2. What do you think about the government’s response to the pandemic in regard to healthcare specifically?
In my opinion the government failed to provide for healthcare workers, in my sector the HSE guidelines were only updated so we would receive masks in late April when total cases was reaching 20,000. The turnaround time for tests was too long to get healthcare workers back out to patients and to contact trace, a far cry from the WHO’s advice of ‘testing, testing, testing’. Care homes were hit the worst with COVID-19 yet they struggled to receive PPE and were severely understaffed to begin with. The majority of the caring sector is private so workers are not paid HSE rates, given the same benefits and the HSE doesn’t have to respond to grievances from patients or workers. Considering those being cared for are vulnerable and at risk of COVID-19, the government response and ongoing treatment of the sector is appalling. Some of our lowest paid healthcare workers often working in the private sector – healthcare assistants and student nurses – were expected to pick up the slack in hospitals and care homes while putting themselves at risk. While the private hospitals were taken over one would question why this was done through an undisclosed deal and why a worldwide pandemic is the only time Irish people get equal access to healthcare.