Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle Says Government Has Let Down Frontline Health Service Workers

Pringle Says Government Has Let Down Frontline Health Service Workers

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said the Government has let down people on the front line of health services, in Donegal and across the country, during the pandemic.

He also raised concerns about an apparent lack of cross-border co-operation in the fight against Covid-19.

Addressing the Dáil on Wednesday during statements on health and Covid-19, Deputy Pringle said: “The Government didn’t listen to NPHET advice in the run-up to Christmas and instead went along with what their lobbyist friends wanted.”

Saying the Government has been “gaslighting” the public, he said: “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.”

He said he was dismayed to see Letterkenny University Hospital so badly affected by this wave.

He said: “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,” he said.

He submitted a Freedom of Information request months ago asking about the level of co-operation and forward planning between North and South in relation to Covid restrictions and management, in light of consistently high numbers of Covid cases in Donegal and along the border.

Deputy Pringle said he received a response from the chief medical officer of the Health Service Executive saying, basically, that no contacts have been taking place. Yesterday he received a reply from the Office of the Taoiseach, releasing a single document, “which basically says nothing.

“And that’s the height of the co-operation that’s taking place,” he said.

Deputy Pringle also brought a number of concerns to the Dáil from a meeting of the Oireachtas Disability Group, which heard this week from organisations working with people with disabilities.

He asked for details for vaccinating people with disabilities who are under 65 years of age. The deputy also asked why NPHET’s vulnerable people subgroup, which had included disability organisations, was disbanded last year. Advocates have called for its urgent reinstatement.

He was also critical of the reduction of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for high-risk groups to €203 per week. And he said people at high risk whose workplaces remain open without the possibility of working from home may face being forced to go to the workplace.

“This needs to be investigated,” Deputy Pringle said.