AN IRISH nurse has revealed the 'intolerable' and thankless conditions hospital staff are expected to work in, in a desperate call for action from the government.
Nurse Marie Lyons, who works in Mayo University Hospital, wrote a heart-wrenching piece for local outlet The Mayo News describing the pressure she and her colleagues are under and demanding government action.
"Nurses are drowning," Ms Lyons wrote. "People are waving kindly from the shore because they don't understand. They think we are still waving too."
Nurses and other hospital staff have been under incredible pressure in the last 12 months since the pandemic hit Irish shores, but many of these issues have been prevalent since long before the Irish public heard of the word 'coronavirus'.
As Ms Lyons points out in her piece, before the pandemic hit, one of the biggest sources of public anger-- and the subject of countless headlines and front pages from the media-- was that of patients lying on trolleys, sometimes for days, as there were no beds available.
"Covid has made everything worse, but this crisis has been bubbling away for years," she wrote.
Nurses were never supposed to admit that they were "already exhausted, disempowered and demoralised... overworked and underpaid", but rather "nurses did what nurses always do- adapted", in a "system that is staggeringly unfit for purpose".
"We pulled up our sleeves and managed the unmanageable, enduring levels of pressure that have become intolerable, 13 hour shifts turning into 14 hours as a matter of normalcy, foregoing breaks for hours, spat out at the end of the day with just about enough energy to drive home."
When the pandemic arrived, Ms Lyons writes, the army of nurses carried on their duties, taking on more and more while their mental and physical health suffered, and while others received the Pandemic Unemployment Payment or bonuses, nurses "worked longer and harder, in worse conditions, melting in our PPE".
"Thousands of us becoming infected. And some of us died."
Ms Lyons shared personal stories of the "suffering" seen in the wards across Ireland, with emergency departments "packed with sick and elderly people lying around in draughty corridors where they will get no sleep".
She asked if it was time that nurses should "take advantage" of the fact that the health system and the role of nurses have been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic, and called for her colleagues to "expose the shocking exploitation of nurses at its heart".
"We have not been supported by our government," she wrote, pointing out that while the new Secretary General of the Department of Health received a pay rise of €81,000 bringing his salary to €292,000, "the Dáil quibbled over giving student nurses €100 a week for putting away their studies to work full time.
"The inequality is literally breathtaking."
She called for nurses to "demand transformed working conditions", writing "our opinions matter, our experience is invaluable".
"We can no longer accept conditions that are dangerous for our patients".
"Nurses have huddled for too long in the trenches. We have coped too much and far too well. It’s time to stop being so competent that nothing has to really change. We owe it to our patients. We owe it to ourselves.
"The spot light is here. What are we going to do with it?"
You can read Nurse Marie Lyons's moving piece in full on The Mayo News website here.