‘We have to keep going!’

CALL Retention fee for nurses must be rescinded

The stress experienced by front line nursing staff was painted in stark detail at a meeting of Cavan County Council on Monday as members debated a motion calling on the government to rescind retention fees for nurses. The matter was brought to the attention of the chamber by Cllr Shane P O'Reilly (Ind).

Cllr O'Reilly read from correspondence from a constituent who described herself as “depressed, anxious, broken” and annoyed by her situation. Cllr O'Reilly told theCelthe knows the nurse since they attended school together. She was prompted to contact him after the annual demand for a €100 nurse's retention fee was issued to all nurses by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI).

The NMBI is the statutory body, which sets the standards for the education, registration and professional conduct of nurses and midwives. They advise on how nurses and midwives should provide care to patients, their families and society.

Cllr O'Reilly's motion comes as thousands of health service staff are to be redeployed and a deal allowing the use of private hospital capacity triggered to cope with the unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases.

The motion stated: 'That Cavan County Council calls on the Department of Health and NMBI to immediately rescind the paying of retention fees by nurses and medical professionals in light of their selfless service and contribution to the fight against COVID-19.'

The councillor spoke of his correspondence in which the nurse outlined the personal stress experienced in the hospital setting and her frustration around the retention fees. In the communication between Cllr O'Reilly and the nurse she details how the ward she works on is “constantly short staffed” because of the pandemic.

The nurse said: “I have worked on the Covid ward since March. I've seen many of my colleagues infected with Covid. Many are suffering serious side effects of the virus and probably won't be able to return for months, if at all. We see trauma every day, but have to keep going.”

The personal sacrifices of the nursing staff are also outlined in the letter: “Every day we put our families' health and lives at risk by working directly with Covid. I've made peace myself that, God forbid I contract it and possibly die from Covid, then so be it. But I can't make peace with something happening to my husband or kids and my elderly mother in law who lives with us. The worry is always there. It terrifies me.”

The nurse details her motivation: “I go to work knowing I can save lives. I have trained for four years and, like otherS, have to do continuous courses and training every year to be a nurse. I know I am a good nurse. I love my patients dearly and I love helping them.”

She tells Cllr O'Reilly why she was particularly angered by the call for the retention fee: “As bad as it is and lowly as we are paid, today was a kick in the teeth for every nurses and midwife countrywide. Today we receive our annual retention fee bill through the post.”

The nurse outlines her own personal difficulties with the demand: “My husband has lost his job thanks to Covid. We barely survive on my salary as it is, now I have to fork out €100 to the NMBI. I don't have that money to spare. So many of us are in the same boat.”

Said that many of her colleagues want to leave nursing as soon as the pandemic is over: “We've had enough. The disrespect show to us, especially today, has tipped us over the edge. If the Irish government had one scrap of decency, they would pay our retention fees this year. Every other healthcare worker in the world is being rewarded for working through Covid, but once again we are being punished.”

Councillors were unanimous in their support of the motion put to the chamber by Cllr O'Reilly who said the next few weeks are critical in the fight against the virus. He thanked his fellow members and concluded by saying: “Hopefully we are in the last phase of this terrible crisis.”