DOMESTIC staff at Letterkenny University Hospital have spoken of ‘downing tools’ due to their fears over a lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 crisis.
There are growing concerns that some staff are potentially being exposed to Covid-19 risks as they carry out their daily duties.
There is a huge shortage of PPE equipment at present with some of the latest shipment into Ireland also having been deemed ‘not fit for purpose’.
At LUH, PPE equipment has now effectively been rationed, limited only to nurses and other medical staff.
“Last week, we all had stuff supplied, the masks, the blue gowns and the goggles, but they’ve been taken off us,” one domestic, who works as a cleaner in the hospital, told Donegal Daily.
“Our supervisor has been fighting to allow us wear it. Management has ordered that cleaners and catering staff don’t wear the PPE.
“Nurses are keeping their own goggles now. There are hardly any goggles left up there and they’ll run out of the gowns, too, at some stage. The goggles are just wiped down with alcohol wipes when they’re used now – they’re supposed to be disposed of when they’re used. It’s clear the supplies are running out.”
Additional staff has been drafted in to aid with an expected surge in cases of Covid-19 patients being treated for at LUH.
Last week, one new member quit her job due to her concerns over the restrictive use of PPE.
Long-time staff members have expressed a rising anxiety.
One said: “It’s very uneasy. Everyone is wondering should we just down tools and make a stand. It’s very upsetting.
“We also have families and children to come home to at the end of our working days. This has put added stress and worry onto us at this time.”
Union chiefs have advised that the domestic staff should have PPE in order to protect themselves, but senior management at the facility has been forced to limit the supply to medical staff.
The concerned employee said: “We could be half-an-hour in cleaning a four-bed ward with Covid-19 patients. We’re touching things to move them for cleaning and sometimes the patients would touch us – maybe just tap us to say: ‘Excuse me, can you get me something’.
“Our arms, chest and face are left bare when we’re in these wards. We’re just wearing the v-necks, a plastic apron to ‘protect’ us. Basically, we’re just in scrubs.
“We were told on Friday not to be wearing the PPE gear as that would be ‘wasting’ it. Our bosses have come to make sure we’re not wearing it and we’ll be checked.
“This is us going into either people who have Covid-19 or who are suspected cases.
“It’s crazy. We should expect to get taken care of with proper equipment.”
Describing items such as soap and hand gel ‘like gold dust’ at the moment, the worker said the facilities available for domestic staff in general, was inadequate.
She told Donegal Daily: “Domestics don’t have a changing facility or a team room. If we want a cup of tea, we just have to go to the public canteen. We’re just told to use hand gel and it’s just a case of: ‘Make sure to give your arms a good scrub.’ If we need to change, we just go into some of the toilets. We used to have a changing facility and it was done away with.”
The concerns of the domestic staff comes after portering staff at the hospital complained over their work conditions at the hospital during Covid-19.
A spokesperson for up to 60 men and women in the portering section told Donegal Daily that they had no wash-hand basins to use, had to change in toilets and their common area was not fit for purpose.Tags: