State will pay €100,000 to families of healthcare workers who died of Covid

It is thought the families or estates of more than 20 people who contracted the virus at work will benefit from the tax-free payment

The State will pay €100,000 to the families of healthcare workers who died from Covid-19 during the pandemic under plans going to Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will seek approval for a scheme that will cover a small number of healthcare workers. To qualify people will have to have contracted the virus in the workplace.

It is thought that the families or estates of more than 20 workers will benefit from the tax-free payment, which will be paid on a flat rate and on an ex-gratia basis, unrelated to the salary of the person who died.

Hospital Report

According to latest figures compiled by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there were 21 deaths related to the disease among healthcare workers in the State. They include HSE staff, locum, agency and contract workers, those in private nursing homes and cleaning staff.

The idea of making a payment to the estates of healthcare workers who died from Covid-19 was first mooted in the spring of 2020 as the original wave of coronavirus infection was still playing out. It was suggested by the National Joint Council of HSE staff unions, representing workers in the sector.

A union source said the proposed Government scheme was being seen as “very generous”.

The idea of making a payment to the families or estates of healthcare workers who died from the disease has generally taken a back seat to efforts to sign off on a wider benefit for frontline workers involved in the pandemic effort. That was agreed by Government earlier this year in the shape of a €1,000 tax-free recognition payment for eligible frontline health and ambulance workers, as well as staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices.

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly will also seek Cabinet permission to draft laws strengthening the oversight and enforcement powers of the chief inspector of the Health Information and Quality Authority. While the steps being brought to Cabinet are not explicitly linked to the pandemic, the additional enforcement powers and tools are being brought in over a sector which recorded thousands of deaths during the pandemic.