Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday announced an unprecedented recruitment drive for the health service to meet the demand for professionals in order to tackle the spread of Covid-19.
“ ‘Your country needs you’ was a cliché in the past but it is an actual call we are making here in Ireland,” said Mr Harris.
The Government and the HSE are calling on healthcare professionals from all disciplines who are not already working in the public health service to register to be on call for Ireland and to prepare to care for the people who will be affected by the virus.
Extra hospitals and care beds are being created and more hands are needed to provide the care required to meet the challenges ahead for the health system.
Healthcare professionals, retired healthcare professionals, healthcare students, or those with skills to offer are being asked to support their health system and register their interest on the HSE’s website.
At a press conference yesterday morning, Mr Harris said the health service needs “all hands on deck” and insisted that there will be “no financial restraints” to hire doctors and nurses.
He said every doctor who qualifies in Ireland this year will automatically be offered an internship in a hospital.
“Every newly graduated doctor in Ireland will be offered an internship here,” he said. “We’re making the decision today that everybody who wants an internship here every graduate doctor, who wants a job, will get one. We want to hire everybody we can possibly find.
“There will be no financial constraints, the health service can hire everybody and anybody that is suitably qualified to work in the Irish public health service.”
Mr Harris also appealed to anyone with nursing experience to offer their services to the health service, including retired doctors and nurses, part-time workers, and students, who were asked to sign up to the ‘Be on call for Ireland’ initiative.
“We want people who perhaps retired in recent years to come back if they’re able to,” he said. “We want people who might be working part-time if they’re able to work with us. We want student nurses, perhaps other students to take up roles in the health service even if they can’t work as fully-fledged nurses.
“We need literally all hands on deck, everybody working for Ireland.”
Meanwhile, measures that would allow people to be detained if they have Covid-19 and refuse to self-isolate following medical recommendations have been signed off on by the Cabinet.
The Cabinet signed off on emergency legislation and regulations dealing with the Covid-19 crisis at a meeting yesterday. It will be passed by the Dáil during a short sitting tomorrow. The measures will also give the Government the legal power to shut down mass gatherings.
Mr Harris reminded the public to refrain from socialising with others and reminded people that, in order to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 outbreak, everyone must be responsible for their own actions.
“I think it’s worth reminding everyone in our country of this today,” he said. “The biggest risk here is for people to think that this is a virus that doesn’t concern them.
“And I think we’ve seen perhaps a risk of that, on occasion in recent days, that people think ‘look, this is just a virus that affects a certain person in a certain age group’.
“If we take that approach here in this country, we’re not going to flatten the curve. We all need to, regardless of our age, regardless of where we live or what we do, play our part in terms of following the very clear public health advice.
“I know people are worried but I want people to know people are moving hell and high water to help but this is a national effort — everyone has to put their shoulder to the wheel.”
Mr Harris’s message comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that around half the population of Ireland could become infected.
Mr Harris, chief medical officer Tony Holohan, his deputy, Ronan Glynn, HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry, and the chairman of the Covid-19 expert advisory group, Cillian De Gascun, met with medical colleagues from across the health service to outline Ireland’s approach to date and to discuss how best to meet the challenges ahead.
Meanwhile, 30,000 Covid-19 testing kits are due to be delivered to Ireland tomorrow amid fears supplies could run out.
Nineteen out of the planned 30 testing centres are now open. The number includes a drive-through facility at Croke Park in Dublin. Patients are instructed to drive in, place a mask on their face, and stay in their car until called to a bay for testing, which includes a swab of the nose and throat.
Dr Henry said there are “large volumes of people” waiting to get tested. He said there will be delays and that it is difficult to carry out the test in the time patients would like, adding that the first line of defence remains testing, contact tracing, and self-isolation.
There have been two deaths associated with Covid-19 in Ireland.