Compensation scheme to be introduced for families of health workers who die with coronavirus

Minister says all frontline employees including locums to be included

Mr Donnelly said on Tuesday he had met three of the unions representing frontline workers who spoke of very high rates of Covid-19 amongst healthcare workers. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Donnelly said on Tuesday he had met three of the unions representing frontline workers who spoke of very high rates of Covid-19 amongst healthcare workers. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will introduce a compensation scheme for the families of frontline health workers who die due to coronavirus.

He said in the Dáil he will bring a proposal to Cabinet and said Department of Health officials had done a lot of work on the issue, started by the previous government.

Mr Donnelly told Fianna Fáil party colleague John Lahart the scheme will be for all frontline workers and will include section 38, and section 39 employees who work for agencies funded by the State, and those in nursing home. The Minister said a lot of people working in nursing homes did not have the protections.

Mr Lahart raised the issue in the wake of the death of Dr Syed Waqqer Ali, who died three months after contracting the virus. He had been working at the Mater Hospital and died three months after becoming ill.

The Dublin South-West TD said Dr Ali worked as a locum or temporary stand-in for another doctor and “without the entitlements that full-time staff would have in terms of pensions and leave”.

He said that “where locums working in the public health service help to fight Covid-19 and then themselves fall victim to the virus then the State should consider providing some form of financial support for bereaved families.

He is the eighth healthcare worker to die of the virus in the State.

Mr Donnelly also paid tribute to Dr Ali and offered his condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. The Minister described Dr Ali as an “extraordinary man” and a “dedicated doctor”.

The Minister said there were “barriers to be worked through” to ensure the scheme would apply retrospectively. “There is really no point in us bringing a scheme forward at some distant point in the future for Covid if it doesn’t apply for the entire period.”

The Minister said a lot of healthcare workers are protected by various life assurance schemes but “locums are not, nor are certain other category workers”.

Mr Donnelly said on Tuesday he had met three of the unions representing frontline workers who spoke of very high rates of Covid-19 amongst healthcare workers.

The number of healthcare workers as a total percentage of total case in Ireland is very high but “it is a function of testing”. The number of healthcare workers as a percentage of all healthcare workers is “significantly lower than international standards”.

But he said they had to strive to do more “and we will continue to ensure that we do everything we can to that end”.