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Who will nurse the nurses?

Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020 4:42pm

Anxiety, headaches, breathing problems and heart palpitations are just some of the symptoms still being suffered by the vast majority of nurses who have ‘recovered’ from Covid-19.

That’s according to a new survey released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) which says that 91 per cent of the 545 affected nurses are still experiencing significant lasting symptoms.

Other post-viral symptoms cited by respondents included fatigue, trouble concentrating, dizziness, light headedness, recurring fever, nausea, chest pain, loss of taste and smell, muscle pain and insomnia.

The survey also showed that, of the 7,000 nurses and midwives surveyed, including those who did not contract the virus, 81 per cent said that working in the health service during the pandemic impacted upon their mental health.

On Tuesday morning, the INMO presented its findings to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid response.

Appearing before the committee was 27 year old nurse Siobhán Murphy who claims she had “unjustifiably” contracted Covid-19 in the workplace due to understaffing, extreme burnout and overexposure to the virus.

“The psychological impact of Covid-19 has been detrimental to me and to my colleagues. Being given a telephone number or an app to access from home for psychological trauma and for post-traumatic stress disorder, is just not sufficient,” said Ms Murphy.

She added: “I personally do not think I can walk into a workplace that is unsafe, and that is how I felt at times, even though I was provided with PPE. To me, the workplace was a hazard.”

Ms Murphy, who had no previous or underlying health conditions, was hospitalised for a week due to her symptoms which she said then “escalated out of my control”.

Ms Murphy said: “I had to be monitored and investigated as an inpatient in the hospital where I work, where just a week previously I would have been standing as a nurse at the bedside providing care to dying patients who succumbed to Covid-19. It was extremely traumatising.”

Speaking to the committee, INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said the pandemic is still within Ireland’s health service and that the idea of nurses having to face it all again “absolutely terrifies them”.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said: “The important point about this virus is that it does not discriminate. Its aim is to infect people, so we have to make sure we prevent it from doing that. If that means some members of the workforce having to remain outside it, the health service has to make provision to supplement the remaining workforce.”

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