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Finance minister says 'work is underway' to address childcare challenge faced by healthcare workers

Paschal Donohue said work is underway in relation to the issue following representations from workers unions in the last 24 hours.

Image: RollingNews.ie

FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe has today said there are no specific measures ready to help ease the burden of childcare on healthcare workers in the public service after unions urged the government to provide clarity on the issue in recent days.

Creches, schools and universities have all been closed as of yesterday as part of a wide-ranging plan from government to tackle and mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

Speaking at a briefing this morning, Donohoe said he recognised the challenges healthcare workers faced now that their children are not attending schools or creches for the next two weeks, but said there is no measures available at present to help support workers in this situation.

“There is work underway in relation to that area but we don’t at this point have a specific action step against that, but we are aware of the difficulties it could pose in relation to public service delivery across our hospitals in the coming days and weeks, and beyond,” he said. 

“We recognise that the decision that was made for the public health of our country, of course, does pose many many challenges in terms of school closures and creche closures for employers all over the length and breadth of Ireland. 

“We particularly recognise, however, that those involved in our public services and in our front line public services, upon whom we are really relying at the moment, that those decisions on the availability of childcare could have a particular effect on them, and in turn the work in which we are depending on them to do.”

Last night, trade union Forsa said that it has had discussions with the HSE around the issue and that it is urging the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure to expedite measures to support healthcare workers. 

“The HSE last night told health unions it has urged the departments of health and public expenditure to put measures in place to prioritise childcare and other arrangements to allow health workers do their job in the face of the Covid-19 crisis,” a statement from the union said. 

“Fórsa and other unions stressed the need for supports to ensure health staff can continue to spearhead the State’s effort to tackle the crisis. The HSE told them that political leaders supported this approach, and said unions should expect an update this morning.

Schools and creches are expected to remain closed until at least 29 March with chief medical officer at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan yesterday telling reporters that he could not rule out this period being extended. 

Businesses have asked employees across the country to work from home during this period but it is a measure that cannot be extended to doctors and nurses in the public healthcare system while the country tries to deal with the coronavirus outbreak here. 

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