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SIPTU representatives demand red alert weather protocol for all health workers

SIPTU Health representatives have demanded the immediate development of a red alert weather protocol for all health workers that is underpinned by specific staffing arrangements and a fair pay structure.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “It is only through the collective effort of our members that our health service remained operational throughout Storm Emma. The actions of these workers should be recognised for minimising the risk to the public during the red status weather alert. It is clear that ambulance professionals, health care assistants, catering staff, porters, nurses, midwives, those working in diagnostics, to name only a few categories of workers involved, went above and beyond the call of duty. Many slept in hospitals, others in hotels, some walked for miles just to make their shift.

“However, lessons must be learnt concerning the mixed messages from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, about the treatment of staff who could or could not get to work. Another particularly difficult issue was home helps getting access to people in their homes. We also had a potentially dangerous incident in Naas where an ambulance station was not able to operate for 12 hours because of the failure to put in place provisions to clear its entrance. It was only through the herculean efforts of workers and one brave community volunteer with a JCB that the station was able to get up and running again.”

Bell said there is a need for an extreme weather protocol which must take into account the proper recognition and remuneration for staff exposed to danger whilst working or travelling to work in hazardous conditions.

“Minister Harris confirmed in a tweet that health workers who were unable to attend work when a red status weather warning was in place, would be paid for the hours they were scheduled to work and would not be required to take leave to cover any absence as a direct result of Storm Emma. Crucially, the Minister confirmed that the HSE would find a way to ‘acknowledge’ the efforts of staff who braved the elements to come to work during the big freeze on Thursday and Friday.”

He added: “We look forward to opening a conversation on these issues when the group of health unions meet on Wednesday (7th March). It is also our intention to seek support from our colleagues in the trade union movement for the immediate development of an extreme weather protocol that will give certainty to the public and provide security for workers.”

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