Large swathe of frontline healthcare workers yet to receive Covid-19 bonus payment

Hospice and disability workers among ‘non-HSE’ staff who have yet to get the €1,000

Frontline healthcare workers in hospices, private nursing homes and disability services have yet to receive their coronavirus pandemic payment despite the fact nearly all direct HSE workers have now been paid.

In January, the Government announced a recognition payment of €1,000 for eligible frontline public sector healthcare workers to recognise their unique role during the pandemic.

The HSE has said that as of last Friday, almost 110,000 workers in the HSE and in section 38 agencies — which provide services on behalf of the HSE — had received the payment and that this represented the vast majority of eligible staff.

However employees not paid directly by the HSE, such as those working in private sector nursing homes, agency staff, people working in certain long-term residential care facilities and some paramedics, have yet to receive the payment. They were also covered by the Government’s decision to offer the payments but the Department of Health has said it is “complex” to administer the payment.

READ MORE

Opposition politicians have called on the department to address the matter urgently.

Describing the situation as “unacceptable”, People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said: “The goodwill that initially welcomed the announcement has been diminished by the delay in its administration. The Department of Health have now got to give a guarantee that this will be paid in the next few weeks otherwise the Government has to directly intervene.”

The HSE said: “In regards to non-HSE staff, work is ongoing through the Department of Health to advise of the scope and process in this regard, as a result no payments have been made to date.”

A department spokeswoman said rolling out the payment to these workers is “complex” and that guidance will be given soon.

“Officials in the HSE and the department are prioritising the work needed to progress the rollout of the pandemic recognition payment to eligible employees of the specific organisation types covered by the Government decision … There are many organisations to be covered and this work is being given priority attention.

“It is hoped that information will be published shortly for those certain non-HSE/section 38 healthcare employees that are covered by the Government decision and the process available to their employers to implement this measure for their eligible staff. Once this process is published, the department is keen that payments to eligible workers will be made as soon as possible thereafter.”

The secrets to living a longer life (From January 2022)

Listen | 00:00

The spokeswoman said that the specific non-HSE/section 38 organisations are: private sector nursing homes and hospices; eligible staff working on-site in section 39 long-term residential care facilities for people with disabilities; agency roles working in the HSE; healthcare support assistants also known as home help workers who are contracted to the HSE; redeployed members of the Department of Defence who worked in frontline Covid-19 exposed environments in the HSE; and paramedics employed by the Department of Housing.

Queried on the total number of payments made to HSE staff and section 38 agencies, a spokeswoman for the HSE said that to date the total number of beneficiaries stood at 108,013.

The determination as to who is eligible is made locally and there is an appeals process set up, which is independently chaired, where workers who believe they should have received the payment can have it adjudicated.

Meanwhile, Labour spokeswoman for Further and Higher Education and Senator Annie Hoey called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris to outline the status of the pandemic bonus for student nurses and midwives.

She said there were reports that this bonus is yet to be received by many students.

“The delays to the pandemic bonus payment for students is deeply disrespectful. Student nurses and midwives were at the coal face of the pandemic, working on Covid-19 wards and caring for vulnerable patients,” she said.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times