SIPTU Health representatives have today (Sunday 24th, May) condemned the failure of Government to include a voice for health workers on the Nursing Home Expert Panel, established by Minister for Health, Simon Harris, in response to the performance of the sector dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “We suspect that their voice has been excluded on the grounds that many of the most pertinent questions posed to the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health since the Covid-19 emergency began have been submitted by SIPTU and other unions. SIPTU representatives regularly posed questions on the unavailability of PPE, safe staffing levels, the non-availability of skilled staff and highlighted a history of poor treatment of staff in this sector for years, especially in relation to pay and protection of staff. We also raised serious concerns over the heavy reliance of agency staff, many of whom travel from facility to facility. We believe these questions cut to the core of the crisis in nursing homes and the public requires answers to ensure that what has gone on in the private nursing home sector is never to be repeated.” He added: “SIPTU represents thousands of health workers located in both private and public nursing homes and we strongly believe that the concerns and experiences of these workers must be told. Many of our members working in these settings contracted COVID 19 and the staffing models in many private nursing home facilities exposed workers to long hours and extreme fatigue. These are two burning issues in this sector and workers want to see them addressed.” SIPTU representatives have written to the health minister requesting trade union representation on the expert panel and also have demanded a detailed breakdown on how private nursing home operators spent the €73 million allocated to them by the Government since the Covid-19 crisis began.