Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Brian Stanley TD meet with union reps on Monday
Plans for a 30-bed unit at St. Fintan's Hospital have to be advanced as "an absolute necessity," Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Leinster Express on Monday.
Ms McDonald was speaking following a meeting with representatives of SIPTU, the INMO and Forsa unions at St. Fintan's and the Midlands Regional Hospital during a visit to Portlaoise on Monday.
The purpose of the trip was firstly to acknowledge the work of front line workers. "They have been through a difficult period of time. It was important to listen to them, to acknowledge the work they have done, and to hear what went well and what didn't," she said.
"There are real fears over a second surge of the virus and we have to learn from what went before," she stressed. "There are concerns that the public, and indeed politicians, are in some false sense of security with the perception that the virus has lulled."
Coupled with this is frustration and disbelief amongst health care workers and assistants that they have not got the recognition they deserve and have not been paid at the proper rate.
"For nurses, the two-tier pay system is not sustainable. Agreements with Government have to be honoured. These people need to be paid at what is the appropriate rate."
The Sinn Féin leader also emphasised the importance of the adequate resourcing of the Hospital. "There is a need for a respiratory assessment unit. We have to ensure there is no cross contamination, and we need to ensure the quality of the PPE.
"At St. Fintan's, which has seen so much heartbreak and loss, there is a real sense of the need that patients have the appropriate accommodation. This virus is so infectious that we have to do what we can to protect people."
Ms McDonald said that health care workers had been through the mill, in what was a very stressful time. "These are very resilient, formidable people. They take pride in the hospitals and they are proud of the things they got right.
"They are tired, but resolute. All we can ask is that they remain on high alert. This is not the end of it, and we may need them to dig deep again. The fallout of this crisis is only beginning," she warned.
Accompanying Mary Lou McDonald was Brian Stanley TD, who was last week appointed Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. She paid tribute to Deputy Stanley. "Brian will bring the necessary experience, resilience and steadiness to this role and I know he is very much looking forward to getting stuck into it," she said.