We therefore need to start thinking of emergency measures now – rather than waiting.
Here are some measures that People Before Profit believe are urgently necessary:
- The Department of Health must procure adequate quantities of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) eg Facemasks: N95 or higher standard and Eye Protection (goggles or face shields). Where practicable the government can resource medical equipment and/or clothing factories to produce equipment to meet any predicted shortfall.
- More frontline healthcare staff must be recruited immediately to the HSE.
- The Department of Health needs to create more high-standard isolation units immediately.
- There is already a shortage of ICU beds in Ireland due to the scandalous cutbacks imposed during the austerity years. New ICU beds should be identified and staffed as a matter of urgency.
- The crisis prone nature of our health system means that emergency action must now be taken. Two measures are required:
- The full integration of the private health care system into the public system. This needs to be combined with a state assurance that no elements of a two-tier system will operate while the country is threatened with this virus.
- The government should source the material and means to set up field hospitals in the event of Covid 19 spreading further.
- In the medium to long run, antiviral medications and a vaccine will be needed to combat the virus. However, under current Intellectual Property rules, these may be held by private for-profit corporations and not made publicly available. The state should direct researchers in industry and public institutions with expertise in viral infection and immunity to reorient work to help international efforts to develop antiviral drugs, improved diagnostics and a vaccine. It should also establish special funding streams for research on SARs-CoV2/Covid-19. It should declare publicly that it will not abide by any ‘proprietary rights’ when it comes to making generic versions of such vaccines as soon as possible as allowed for under World Trade Organisation rules in national emergencies.
- Severe penalties against any company who attempts to profiteer from this crisis by pushing up prices for items such as sanitisers.
- The coronavirus needs to be tackled on an all-Ireland basis. An emergency cross border committee involving health ministers needs to be established to discuss cross border cooperation and sharing of resources to tackle the infection.
- The proposal that individuals self -isolate is medically sound and we fully support it. However, we need to recognize that there are serious deficiencies in Ireland’s sick pay schemes that will be exacerbated further with this crisis. Essentially, there is no provision in Irish law to force employers to have a sick pay scheme. As a result, workers, particularly those in precarious employment, may have no financial protection during the course of self-isolation. This, tragically, could encourage many instead to turn up for work – because without wages they may be without food for their family.
If your job doesn’t have a sick pay scheme you will be totally reliant on state illness benefit. No payment is made for the first 6 days of illness of this (thanks to Labour Party Minister Joan Burton who increased it from the first 3 days in 2013), which are known as waiting days. (Note that Sunday is not counted as a waiting day.)There is also an eligibility criterion, your payment is based on your fulfilling these and means you must have a certain number of contributions (paid PRSI contributions) in the previous period or years. (See next page.)