The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has urged the Government to act immediately to deliver childcare for health service workers to enable them to attend work and treat patients affected by Covid-19.
The Government decision to close schools and crèches earlier this month has left some healthcare workers including doctors, nurses and support staff unable to attend work, particularly as fallback childcare assistance from older relatives has been ruled out by HSE guidelines on social distancing, cocooning and the restriction on movement.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that childcare can be expensive and difficult at the best of times, but warned school and creche closures have pushed the problem to "breaking point".
She noted that childcare has always been a major practical issue for nurses and midwives, as 90% of them are women, and have to cover 24/7 shifts.
"With school and crèche closures, our members are being put under intolerable pressure. This has not only added needless stress at a difficult time, but has made rosters and staffing increasingly difficult," Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.
She added: "Covid-19 means ensuring we have as many nurses and midwives on the frontline as possible. That is being increasingly compromised due to a lack of childcare.
"Practicalities aside, Ireland is asking a lot of its frontline workers. The very least that can be done is providing backup childcare when they are facing down Covid-19."
The INMO said the Government must provide direct childcare to frontline healthcare workers, to enable them to attend work safely.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the INMO had raised this issue repeatedly with the Government and the HSE for several weeks, but the union is still awaiting a response to its call for immediate action.