SIPTU representatives have called on the management of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to fast track the recruitment of thousands of additional staff as a matter of urgency in the fight against COVID-19. SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The health service is under incredible pressure right now and health care workers are extremely fearful that they will not have the numbers to meet the challenges from the next wave of this virus. The health service cannot close, health care workers have worked around the clock fighting COVID-19 every day since early 2020 and face the new year with possibly their gravest challenge yet. They are exhausted and must have the necessary resources to ensure we win this battle while we await the roll out of the vaccine in the weeks and months ahead. The Department of Health and HSE must now do all in their power to ensure health care workers have the necessary resources needed to provide life-saving care on the frontline.” The Government pledged an additional €4 billion for the health service in Budget 2021. The funding was earmarked to prioritise the development of health services in the community, deliver 2,600 additional beds and recruit up to 16,000 additional healthcare staff. SIPTU is demanding these initiatives are fast tracked so that the health care workforce is fully supported in the challenging weeks and months ahead. He added: “Since the budget announcement in October, our members have seen little evidence of additional recruitment to assist the front line workforce within the health service. It is essential that roadblocks are removed for vitally needed healthcare workforce supports. Our members within the Acute, Community, Primary, Mental Health and National Ambulance Service settings urgently need additional resources. National approval for local recruitment must be issued to ensure additional staffing levels can be secured in the shortest timeframe possible.”