SIPTU to raise disparity in support for assaulted health workers at Oireachtas Committee

SIPTU representatives will raise the disparity in supports for assaulted health sector staff at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, tomorrow (Wednesday, 8th February). The Committee is meeting to discuss the safety and welfare of workers in the public health service.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “Our union welcomes the opportunity to address the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health so we can highlight some of the concerns of our members regarding their safety and welfare at work. We also want to use the opportunity to present some tangible solutions in this area.

“A key concern for our members is the disparity in financial supports available to healthcare workers based on their role within the public health service. Figures provided by the HSE demonstrate that all healthcare workers face a real threat of physical assault in the workplace. They also show that support staff, which includes healthcare assistants, porters, catering, cleaning and security staff, are the second biggest category impacted by serious physical assaults in the workplace after nurses.

“However, support staff only receive 25% of the financial supports afforded to allied health professionals, clerical officers and nursing staff, even if they are all assaulted in the same incident.

“No worker should have to face the threat of assault in the workplace. If an unfortunate incident does occur, it must be ensured that all policies designed to support workers should be based on equality of access and not grade.”

He added: “SIPTU will also raise the need to give financial assistance to healthcare workers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or affected by Long Covid. While there was such a scheme in place for public service healthcare workers, it was withdrawn in July 2022.

“A temporary scheme is in place, but we have been advised that this will cease in July 2023. This is despite the fact that the EU Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work has confirmed the need to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease.”

“In addition, SIPTU representatives will raise the need for safe staffing levels, based on need, across all departments and concerns our members have expressed in relation to the HSE Dignity at Work policy.”

SIPTU’s Health Division Supports Healthcare Workers and Grief Campaign

SIPTU’s Health Division is supporting a HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation campaign aimed at supporting all healthcare workers experiencing grief, bereavement, and loss.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a new and difficult experience for many healthcare workers who may have been exposed to more death, illness, and distress than usual in the workplace. The campaign notes that healthcare workers are an important consideration for bereavement supports as numerous facets of their work, such as exposure to deaths of patients and colleagues, can make them vulnerable to cumulative grief. It also acknowledges that prolonged exposure to loss can lead to physical and psychological burnout.

Research suggests that a supportive and understanding workplace environment can help those dealing with bereavement in the workplace. This campaign is also encouraging senior managers to be particularly aware of the impact of grief on employees and how they can support their staff with personal and professional grief.

The HSE has published guidance on dealing with grief as a healthcare worker which is available here. They have also published videos in a range of languages which are available online.

HSE workers are reminded that the HSE Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is available on 0818 327 327 if they need to speak to someone who can help. This is a free and confidential service.

Healthcare workers outside of the HSE can use their own EAP service, if available, or call the IHF Bereavement Support Line on 1800 80 70 77 (Monday to Friday, from 10am to 1pm) for support.