Thomas Pringle TD

Government Gaslighting – Health and Covid19

Gaslighting is the process of causing someone to doubt their own thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.”
We have reached a stage of government gaslighting that people are quote-tweeting news headlines correcting the information that is being falsely peddled. The Government didn’t listen to NPHET advice in the run-up to Christmas and instead went along with what its lobbyist friends wanted. In the last week or so, we have had the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Health doing interviews and completely contradicting themselves, refusing to accept responsibility for the fact that Ireland is now the worst in the world regarding the Covid resurgence.
I was dismayed to see that Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH), has been so badly impacted by this wave of Covid. Staff were called to come in urgently so that extra beds could be opened up earlier this week while patients were being seen and triaged in ambulances in the carpark. Because of the high numbers of Covid and the level of community transmission, we have a staffing crisis. There are reportedly around 170 staff from LUH unavailable to work due to Covid. Staff in Letterkenny, and other settings, are working extra shifts to try and help with capacity. While the Government reopened the economy to let businesses boost their profits, those on the front line of our health services have had absolutely no let-up since early last year. They have made huge sacrifices in the fight against Covid and the Government has let them all down.
This morning it was reported that health staff that were self-isolating due to being close contacts with positive Covid cases have been called back in to work!!! Those who are asymptomatic. Such is the crisis in the staffing of our health service that we are bringing potentially contagious staff back into settings with sick and vulnerable people and health staff, putting them all at risk. This is what happened in Letterkenny Hospital last week, staff were called back into work despite being identified as close contacts of people with Covid.
Today there are just 24 available ICU beds in public hospitals across the country, 14 acute adult hospitals have no ICU beds available. The Minister’s media appearances are not doing anything to reassure the public about the competency of the government in handling this pandemic. If you could just give an honest, straight answer, take accountability for wrong decisions and clearly communicate how to make things better there would be more buy-in. Yes there is Covid-fatigue but there is mainly government-spin-fatigue. The Irish electorate is not stupid and does not like to be taken for fools, Minister.
Numbers in Donegal and border counties have been consistently high, as we have waited to see what belated action would be taken in the North. Months ago, I sent in Freedom of Information requests about the level of co-operation and forward planning taking place between the North and the South in relation to Covid restrictions and management. I am still awaiting replies, which again does not lend itself to confidence in those making the decisions.
Yesterday I attended the online meeting of the Oireachtas Disability Group (ODG) where we heard from organisations working with people with disabilities. While in the UK, in the first wave, 6 in 10 of all covid deaths were of people with disabilities. Thankfully, we managed to avoid such a terrible fate here but there are serious concerns about this round. Support organisations have staffing issues due to the high rate of Covid, there are no details for vaccinating people with disabilities who are under 65 years of age; will staff in Section 38 and 39 organisations be treated as equally essential?
At the start of the pandemic, disability organisations were included on the NPHET Vulnerable People subgroup, but this subgroup was disbanded last year. Why? Advocates say that they are acutely noticing the gap in not having this subgroup and have called for its urgent reinstatement. Surely, with the Covid numbers as high as they are, and have been, vulnerable people should be represented. How many women are in the room with decision-makers? How can we be protecting all of society, if we are only hearing from male and pale voices? That’s not to be disparaging about NPHET but we have to make an effort to ensure that diverse and representative voices are present at the decision-making tables.
High-risk groups whose Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has been reduced to €203 per week. If you are high risk but your workplace remains open, without the possibility for you to work from home, and with an uncompromising employer, there are instances of people being forced to go to the workplace, despite their high-risk vulnerability and this needs to be investigated. The Government and lobbyists always focus on the employees but Covid has given an opportunity for exploitative employers to be uncovered and penalised.