Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Covid-19: New Measures: Statements
Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis labhairt ar an ábhar seo. The Government is failing the Irish people in its response to Covid. While we in Sinn Féin agree with the approach of following the available medical advice, the Government is slow to share this advice. Yesterday's briefing to the Opposition by the Chief Medical Officer was a welcome development but communication must improve. There is a lack of planning and leadership by this Government. There is no strategy that I can see except for the kite-flying that we have seen, the latest example of which is the subsidising of antigen tests. There is no sense of urgency in the Government's approach. Keeping the health service functioning must be a priority. Why is it business as usual for private hospitals while public hospitals have widespread cancellations of surgeries and appointments? Waiting lists were bad enough before the pandemic. Urgent action must be taken before we reach a tipping point where a return to normal services becomes an impossible task.
The Government must do better with workplace planning in the health service. I have spoken with front-line workers. They do not feel appreciated. We have had suggestions of various one-off bank holidays, including suggestions for a thanksgiving holiday, with the latest being that we have a black Friday, a toy show day and whatever else. There was a crazy suggestion of a trip to Leinster House. Surely front-line workers have suffered enough. They want the health service to be fixed. They want a normal place to work where they do not feel they are under constant pressure. They do not want gimmicks. They just need what they deserve.
The testing system is broken. A friend of mine went to the HSE website yesterday to book a Covid test. Thankfully, my friend did not have symptoms but needed a negative test to be able to undergo surgery later in the week. They tried to book a test on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in Kildare. There were no available appointments on three successive days. Yesterday, my friend tried Offaly but no appointments were available there either. Then they managed to secure the last available test in Laois. This is not good enough. We now know that 21 centres cannot offer tests.
Why is the Government dragging its feet about ventilation for schools? I know other Deputies have spoken about ventilation. A HEPA filter would make a significant difference to the health of our children, their teachers and special needs assistants. I was in a charity shop a few weeks ago which had a portable air filtration system. Even a charity shop, with its meagre resources, had prioritised the health of its volunteers and customers. This Government must do better.