Cutting nurses’ pay during a pandemic

The government announced a new budget last week and it gives National Health Service workers a raise of 1%. If the government’s inflation forecasts for the coming year are right, that’s a real-world cut in income. 

By pretty much any measure, the government’s in their debt: Their pay’s dropped below inflation over the past ten years (by quite a bit, thanks). During the pandemic, they’ve been working themselves to pieces without proper protective gear and they weren’t even in the top categories of people who were eligible for the vaccines. Some have died. Others have caught Covid and recovered. I doubt anyone has numbers on how many are struggling with long Covid or on how many are terrified at work.

What they’ve gotten from the government is praise and (for a while) clapping on a Thursday night, none of which goes far at the grocery store. But the government swears that 1% is all it can afford.

On the other hand, the government saw its way clear to spend £6.2 million on a new center for press conferences. Because it’s in the public interest. Take away it’s and because and that’s a direct quote.

Nurses are threatening to strike. 

We should all be on strike, although since I’m retired I’m not sure what to stop doing. 

Irrelevant photo: violas

 

The medical stuff

Contrary to what we all thought at the beginning of the pandemic, people with asthma are no more likely than non-asthmatics to get Covid, to be hospitalized for Covid, or to die of Covid. No one’s sure why, but a few possibilities pop up.

  • Asthmatics may have been more cautious about exposing themselves to the virus, lowering their chances of catching it.
  • Inhalers may limit the virus’s chance to attach to the cells in asthmatics’ lungs.
  • The chemical receptors that the virus binds to in the lungs are less active in people with a particular type of asthma, and that may work against the virus and in the humans’ favor.

It’s not all good news, though. Covid can make the asthma symptoms worse. 

*

You know all that stuff you heard about Prozac? Well, forget about it as a way of fighting depression, at least for the moment. It may be a good thing to have in your system if you’re fighting Covid. It counters inflammation and calms cytokine storms–the body’s wild overreaction to Covid that causes so many of the bizarre problems Covid leaves in its wake. 

A study has already established that patients who were taking fluoxetine (the generic name for Prozac) were less likely to be intubated or die of Covid. Now a second study is looking at whether it can keep infected people from developing long Covid.

If hearing that doesn’t cure depression–at least for a few minutes–I don’t know what it’s going to take. Let’s throw caution to the winds and have a nice cup of tea.

*

Researchers are tinkering with a treatment that looks like it could stop both Covid and flu viruses from replicating. And it could be inhaled using a nebulizer, meaning people could take it at home.

What is it? Um, yeah. It all has to do with mRNA and changing a protein and hamsters. The hamsters are the only part of it I understand. Small furry creatures with big cheeks. Sorry. They’re not the ones who change the protein. They were part of the experiment. 

Sorry, hamsters. On the part of the human race, I apologize. For all the good that does you.

If this whatever-it-is works, it could see off the new Covid variants and 99% of the flu strains that’ve been making us sick for the last century. 

No, I know: We haven’t all of us been around for all of the past century–that’s just me. We’re talking about the flu strains that’ve been around for the past century. 

So there’s another reason to abandon our collective depression and maybe have a biscuit with that cup of tea.

Do I know how to throw a party of what?

Admittedly, this is all early-stage stuff, but still. Enjoy the biscuit. Enjoy every moment you can manage.

 

Reopening the schools

English schools restart up on the day I’m posting this (Monday, March 8; happy International Women’s Day to those of you who celebrate it) to the tune of–

How about the tune of six brass bands who haven’t agreed on what to play and haven’t practiced since the pandemic started? And they all swapped instruments when they got off the bus, so the oboe player has a trumpet and the trumpet player got stuck with a banjo.

One band’s playing the masks-recommended tune, but only in secondary schools. Another band’s playing the masks-aren’t-required tune. A violin player’s off by herself playing the this-is-madness theme song.

I know I said brass bands. That’s what we get for electing a bunch of incompetents. 

Can schools require masks?

Nope. 

A headteacher (if you’re American, that means a principal) tweeted, “Everyone, inc the govt, knows that the issue will cause conflict due to the polarised views held and they are throwing me under the bus. Already had ‘human rights’ quoted, threats of litigation. . . ”

So far, there’s no advice on improving ventilation, which would make a serious difference in the virus’s ability to move from person to person. Even though science’s understanding of the virus has moved on since the beginning of the pandemic, the government’s repeating the advice it started out with: keep some distance, wash your hands, keep surfaces clean. 

It’s offered no advice on making class sizes smaller so that it’s possible to create distance. 

Secondary school kids will be tested regularly using a quick but inaccurate test that the government spent a lot of money on. It kicks out a lot of false positives, so if a kid tests positive they’re supposed to confirm that by taking a slower but more accurate test. 

So far, so sensible. 

What happens if the more accurate test tells the kid he or she isn’t infected? That’s where it all goes wavery. If the more accurate test says the kid (or the kid’s family) is negative, they still have to self-isolate. 

Why? 

Because that’s how we’re going to do it.

And no, we’re still not going to pay people who test positive enough money that they can afford to take time off work. 

48 thoughts on “Cutting nurses’ pay during a pandemic

    • They are, and the government’s happy to clap for them, thank them, get pictures taken with them, and say they’re heroes. They just don’t want to pay them, arrange proper protective equipment, or (while we’re at it) train enough replacements. The hospitals are understaffed, partly because with Brexit many foreign nurses are leaving or already have, partly because they’re so overworked that many have quit, and partly because they cut financial support for student nurses, so not enough new ones are training. Great planning, right?

      Liked by 4 people

  1. If we paid those people, we wouldn’t have an effective place from which to talk to them via the press. You thought I’d fail to connect the dots – gotcha.

    I was at a bar (in a restaurant) on Saturday. I asked the bartender what will happen on March 19th, when our governor says restaurants can go to “full capacity” ? She said “nothing” – the press release failed to mention that “full capacity” still requires distancing, and they don’t have room to add anyone and still maintain the distance. So, the “full capacity” statement appeases the folks who want to be at full capacity but doesn’t really affect business. Only government officials can speak that kind of language, and only from million dollar press centers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I got a 1% pay rise this year, and I see it directly as an indication that my company care not one bit about me or the work I do (others got more I believe) and I am not in any way putting myself at risk to save other people from a pandemic…

    Which is a round about way of saying that the nurses pay rise is an atrocious kick in the face from a government who will still expect to be looked after if they get ill!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the info about Asthmatics — I didn’t know any of that. This time last year, the Govt advice said all asthmatics should consider themselves ‘vulnerable’. In fact the official web site still said that a fortnight ago (that was the last time I checked, whats the point of checking again). So my 20 year old asthmatic son has been assuming he was getting the vaccine in the ‘vulnerable’ group. We only found out he’s not in that group via comments made on Facebook!

    Meanwhile, Hubby tried to book his over-56 jab this morning and the booking site was shite — up and down like a bishops knickers….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One would hope that covid has opened eyes to all of us to see what nurses can do and why we need them. It is sad to know that ‘essential’ workers are not recognized as essential with appropriate compensation for the stress (physical and psychological) that the nurses endure daily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. And while we’re at it, in the first wave of the pandemic, there was gratitude for grocery store workers, for delivery drivers, for transportation workers, for all those people who were out risking their lives while those of us who could stayed home. By now they’ve been forgotten–and the ones on zero-hours contracts are still on zero-hours contracts. It’s enough to make a person scream.

      Like

  5. Not sure if it’s heartening or deflating to hear that the issues across the pond are more or less the same as they are in the US. I wish people would seek out experts in the field – i.e. immunologists, virologists, epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, and healthcare professionals, to inform policy. Why is that not a thing!?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The annoying thing about experts is that sometimes they tell us stuff we don’t want to hear. It’s so much simpler (in the short term) to just make our minds up and plow ahead, regardless.

      Things over here aren’t quite as crazy as in the US. The crazies haven’t gone quite as crazy and (huge difference) they’re not armed to the teeth. But that’s not the same as saying we’re all sane.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ooo don’t even get me started on the shenanigans over here. Truly mind boggling. The general opinion is: don’t confuse me with facts, particularly if it inconveniences me in any way and then you’re “taking away mah rights!”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Or to give the full truth, “You’re taking away my right to take away your rights.” Because when they bay for blood, endanger other people’s health, and demand that people be jailed because they don’t like them–well, I’d call that taking away other people’s rights.

          Liked by 1 person

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