As Met Eireann continue to issued weather warnings about the possibility of localised flooding, frost and ice in the coming days the country does its best to return to normality following the most profound snowfall in 36 years.
The events of the last few days have galvanised the perception of health care workers as the caring profession, braving harsh conditions to make sure patients are tended to. Rose Mooney, HSE Service Manager, Residential, Community and Social Supports, Cavan and Monaghan was aware of the efforts that nursing workers were making.
“I oversee residential unit and home support in Cavan Monaghan. The spirit that this event brought out of people is phenomenal. There were staff coming in in all sorts of vehicles to get to work, staff who stayed over in residential units and slept on couches. Sometimes we hear people give out about the HSE, even those of us who work for it, but there really is an unbelievable commitment to making sure that the people that we care for were being looked after,” Rose told the Anglo Celt.
Many of the people who come under the care of Community and Social Supports are the most vulnerable members of society: “You are talking about very frail elderly people. There are four residential units in Cavan and one in Monaghan. These are people who need high levels of nursing care.”
The efforts of staff to ensure a consistent level of nursing was provided was a source of professional pride for Rose. She told of managers staying over in units and care workers going above and beyond the call of duty: “In Virginia the manager was emptying the bins, serving the meals, helping out in every way possible. Staff just could not travel. People were working with the bare minimum, so it was a matter of making sure that all the important work was done.”
These efforts reflect the vocational aspect of the profession: “That is the core of it. It brings people back to that basic reason why they came into the caring profession, be it nursing, carers or catering. It brought people together.
“From a home care perspective it was very challenging. Make sure that families or neighbours call in to them. In situations where people have no families making sure that someone is in contact with them. That was probably the most challenging aspect of the last few days.”
The individual stories of the period of bad weather speak volumes about the Irish nursing profession: “We had one nurse who worked to 1:00am, went to bed in the unit. Got up the next day and worked her shift. Then the nurse who was supposed to come on night duty the next night could not get in because of the conditions and so that nurse stayed on and did the night shift as well.”
Rose said the public reaction to the efforts made by health care workers has been very heartening: “I think it's critical that it is acknowledged. You never want to loose that goodwill. It brought out the best in everyone, including husbands and partners. There were people taking staff in to work on tractors and saying “Is there anyone to be left home while I am her?”, that was the spirit of co-operation that was so apparent throughout.”
The work of emergency department staff was also acknowledged by The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine. The IAEM Honorary Secretary is Ashraf Butt who oversees the Emergency Department of Cavan General Hospital.
In a statement Dr Butt said: “The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine recognises the enormous efforts made by staff working in Ireland’s 29 Emergency Departments (EDs) to ensure that they continued to provide emergency services to the public during the recent severe weather.
We can anticipate therefore that EDs will be very busy and there will be delays for patients in receiving treatment, particularly for those with a lower clinical priority.”
Dr Butt concluded by saying: “The Association also acknowledges the sterling efforts of our pre-hospital care colleagues in continuing to provide an excellent service during such difficult time at not-insignificant risks to themselves.”