Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Carers should be considered frontline healthcare workers

Pringle: Carers should be considered frontline healthcare workers

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said family carers must be prioritized in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out and supported in their caring responsibilities.

Deputy Pringle said: “Is caring for a family member at home not frontline? Are carers not that person’s lifeline, their connection to the outside world, often administering medication, transporting them to and from medical appointments, and all and every other necessary task that comes with being a carer, depending on the needs of the person?”

Deputy Pringle addressed the Dáil today in support of a private member’s bill that would prioritise carers in the vaccine roll-out, increase the carer’s allowance and carer’s benefit, and provide other supports to family carers.

Family Carers Ireland estimate that carers save the Exchequer around €20 billion and provide about 19 million unpaid hours per week.

Deputy Pringle has been calling for family carers to be prioritised since vaccine roll-out plans were first announced.

Deputy Pringle said: “Carers are overworked, undervalued and the State is completely over-reliant on the unpaid caring work done by family members around the country. The fear that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to carers has been palpable in our communities. People caring for vulnerable family members have been terrified that Covid could get into the home, that they themselves would get sick and be unable to continue caring and that those lucky enough to have home help were nervous about staff bringing in Covid, especially because of the lack of PPE at the start of the pandemic.”

He had submitted a parliamentary question asking where carers were in the national roll-out plan for the vaccine, but called the response “beyond disappointing and worrying”.

The response the deputy received stated that the priority was to “first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us”, with a focus on the cohort of people over 65 in long-term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.

However, it said further that: “Family carers are a diverse group, therefore, each individual will be vaccinated in the group that is appropriate to them.”

Deputy Pringle said: “Family carers might be a diverse group and people receiving care are a diverse group but there is a common theme here – vulnerability. People are being cared for at home instead of in healthcare or residential settings.

He said: “If carers were working in those settings they would be classed as frontline healthcare workers and would have been among the first vaccinated.”

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