Connacht Tribune – Nurses’ leader helps secure gear for frontline HSE workers

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    Article from Connacht tribune – The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to healthcare professionals grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic has been the subject of much scrutiny, but efforts to address that shortage have drawn a huge amount of public support.

    Galway woman and long-time advocate for healthcare workers, Mary Leahy, has been leading a crusade to ensure that nobody is left without the protection they need to carry out life-saving work – and through her founding of Heroes-Aid with a number of colleagues, has managed to raise just shy of €130,000 online in the space of just two weeks.

    A bumper donation from MMA star Conor McGregor of €1 million secured by Ms Leahy a fortnight ago – and previously reported by the Galway City Tribune – has already seen PPE such as face masks, visors and gowns delivered to hospitals across the country – but the shortage goes on, and so too does the need for further donations, Ms Leahy said.

    “This is a global pandemic and we’re in a global market which makes it difficult. It’s a seller’s market,” she added.

    While McGregor’s donation was a huge boost – and any other millionaire wishing to make a donation will be gratefully received – every small donation counts, said Ms Leahy, who is no stranger to the frontline herself as a nurse, public health nurse and National Coordinator for Nurse/Midwife Safety.

    “I actually get emotional every time I see someone donate €5, because that’s probably someone that can’t really afford it and yet, it buys two masks,” the former city councillor told the Galway City Tribune this week.

    And those two masks could make all the difference as it could mean removing ‘moral distress’ for a healthcare worker.

    “No nurse or doctor is being asked to care for a patient without PPE. But nurses and doctors have altruism in them – if a patient needs help, they want to run forward and give it.

    “If we manage to provide one mask and that translates to a nurse or doctor being able to go to that patient, then it’s worth it,” said Ms Leahy.

    It’s not the wish or intention of Heroes-Aid to replace the HSE in the procurement of PPE – they have a statutory role and are also working hard to deliver the necessary equipment, she added.

    Heroes-Aid’s role, as Ms Leahy sees it, is to provide emergency support to hospitals that are on the brink of running out of PPE – and last weekend, with the assistance of the army, delivered vital equipment to seven hospitals spanning an 800km, including Naas, St James’, Limerick and Portiuncula.

    There was a lot of criticism recently of PPE delivered from China that wasn’t of the required standard, and Ms Leahy said it was shameful that suppliers had sent that to the HSE, given the requirement and the money spent by the HSE to procure it.

    Standards have been upped since, but Ms Leahy said there was a capability and a willingness by many companies in Ireland – including Boston Scientific in Ballybrit – to produce PPE. But sourcing component parts can be difficult.

    “I’m on to Boston Scientific helping and giving guidance, and they’re able to run off prototypes in 24 hours, and I give them the link to get it out to staff in the hospitals to try it out and offer suggestions back. Boston Scientific is willing to make masks, but they need the ‘P3’ filters.

    “We can make PPE in Galway; we can produce our own masks,” said Ms Leahy, but supports needed to be put in place by Government to assist businesses wishing to do so. “There is a massive ability and willingness to innovate but there is no obvious help available.”

    Ms Leahy said she has a link to producers that was secure and trustworthy, and that meant she could secure PPE without having to wade through as much red tape as the HSE sometimes had to.

    Her primary concern is the welfare of staff, and ensuring that they are kept safe and able to perform their job without feeling unduly stressed – and there is plenty to be stressed about, she said.

    From exposure to the virus, adapting home lives and dealing with the conditions of working in PPE for 13-hour shifts, to rapidly upskilling and being redeployed to new and challenging working environments, healthcare workers are facing huge challenges every day.

    A WhatsApp support group has been established by Ms Leahy for workers to share their experiences, and through Heroes-Aid, access to out-of-hours psychologists is also available.

    “In the long-term, we want to extend that support to the families of healthcare workers who might be negatively affected by Covid-19.

    “Staff are emotionally distressed – they are educated to give a certain standard of care and if they can’t do that, it’s upsetting. Staff are upset at hearing of patients passing away in nursing homes. It is a very distressing time for healthcare workers,” said Ms Leahy.

    For more information or to make a donation, visit Heroes-Aid.

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