Nurse: ‘It’s heart-breaking and completely unfair’
A hospital healthcare worker, who has chosen not to have a Covid vaccine, has spoken of the heartbreak felt by her and unvaccinated colleagues at being taken away from frontline duties.
“It’s heartbreaking and completely unfair,” the woman told The Anglo-Celt this week. “This is discrimination at the least.”
She, and more than a dozen others assigned to various wards across Cavan General Hospital, were redeployed from patient-facing duties as of November 4 last. The move follows a similar directive issued by other hospitals across the country.
Already unvaccinated agency nurses have been told they can no longer work for public hospitals or the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Vaccinations are not mandatory for staff employed directly by the HSE. According to the latest published RCSI indicators, close to 97% of all workers at Cavan General Hospital are inoculated against Covid.
“They say they [vaccines] are not mandatory but, if you make the choice not to take it, you’re like a bold child at playschool that doesn’t do what they are told,” the healthcare worker told the Celt. “It’s like we are put out on the bold step - the Portacabins - and the staff who do not wish to take the boosters will be told ‘well if you don’t take this or do as you are told that’s where you will be too’.
“Taking things away from people until they agree isn’t giving them a choice, I feel it’s punishing them until they concede to your demands and that normally - not in a pandemic - this would be called manipulation.”
The healthcare worker, who made contact with The Anglo-Celt, explained that she decided “not to avail” of the Covid vaccine until “evidence of the efficacy” and potential “side effects” are better known.
She told this newspaper how she tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020 while working on the hospital Covid ward, and has been working on the frontline throughout the whole pandemic. One month ago, she says she got her “bloods checked” to find out if she still has a level of “natural immunity” from contracting COVID-19 and claimed that the results show she still has “antibodies” 18 months later.
The woman states that the vaccine has been available to all staff at CGH since January 2021. “It has been acceptable for us to work unvaccinated on the wards since January but now, all of a sudden, when we have vaccinated more people than we need to achieve herd immunity, the decision is made to redeploy us.”
Unvaccinated staff were informed of the decision to redeploy them in mid-October.
“No alternatives were discussed,” says the healthcare worker, who was also not informed what her new job would be, her working hours, or how long the redeployment would last.
“As a highly qualified professional with a vast experience, I will now be carrying out office work when the wards are extremely short staffed and under pressure.”
She adds that the HSE does not seem to take into consideration “natural immunity” developed post-Covid infection. In response to a Celt query, the RCSI confirmed that staff who work in clinical areas of hospitals “may be asked to confirm” their vaccination status.
“As per this guidance, risk assessments are carried out at a local level on staff working in clinical areas in our hospital sites,” said a spokesperson.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) states “in the case of healthcare workers who are unvaccinated, healthcare unions have negotiated with the employer a risk assessment protocol, which is under regular review.”
SIPTU, which represents non-medical support staff, and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) have not responded to requests for comment to date.