We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


Frontline healthcare workers should get pandemic compensation, INMO tells Oireachtas committee

An Oireachtas committee heard from healthcare representative organisations this morning.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Feb 2021

THE IRISH NURSES and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has told an Oireachtas committee that frontline healthcare workers should receive some compensation for their work during the pandemic.

The INMO, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) this morning provided an update the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health about the protections in place for frontline healthcare workers.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheadgha this morning called for an independent investigation into healthcare worker infection and will criticise the “slow, reluctant” decision-making processes within the HSE and the government.

  • The public health system was creaking before the pandemic – has Covid-19 broken it? Read more here on how to support Noteworthy to investigate this issue.

The organisation said it lodged a claim in November for compensatory leave due to fatigue and overworking in 2020. It said this “has not yet been responded to”.

Healthcare workers in Northern Ireland and Scotland are set to receive a £500 (€570) payment in recognition for their work during the pandemic.

Furthermore, Ní Sheaghdha told committee members that progress to date on payment for student nurses was extremely frustrating. 

“We’ve said from the outset that having an unpaid workforce of 1,500 people – when you have 6,000 staff out sick, what do you think they’re doing?” she said. “I don’t accept that they’re standing in a supervisory capacity or not in the business of working. Of course they’re working. And they’re not getting paid.”

Ní Sheaghdha said that the situation has not improved for students since last March, and had in fact gotten worse. She said a meeting with the health minister just last night had not given any signs of encouragement in this regard. 

She also outlined the difficulty that nurses and midwives have in securing childcare given schools are closed, and said that many healthcare workers are suffering long-term effects from contracting Covid-19 at work. 

In an opening statement to the committee, the INMO said it has experienced difficulties protecting frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic.

It criticised “slow, reluctant” decision-making, vaccine rollouts “without clear guidance or regional prioritisation”, no policy of regular testing for asymptomatic healthcare workers and last-minute decisions on student nurses and midwives.

The organisation set out some recommendations. These include:

  • An independent investigation into healthcare worker infection.
  • HSA inspections into sights with clusters/outbreaks 
  • Increased breaks for staff due to PPE burdens
  • End the policy allowing staff to return to work before the end of self-isolation periods
  • Increase undergraduate places for nursing and midwifery
  • Mental health supports and childcare provision for frontline staff 

They also called for additional frontline healthcare worker compensation, “for all they have done during this pandemic”. 

“The essential role that nurses and midwives play in the Irish health services has come into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the INMO said.

“Nurses and midwives have faced unprecedented challenges and pressures during the pandemic, the effects of which will be felt for a long time to come.”

The organisation said the vaccine rollout “commenced in a haphazard manner, not focused on the locations or workplaces with the highest infections or geographically bordering areas with high community infection”.

“Put simply, the vaccines’ initial distribution seemed to be based on the HSE’s administrative areas, rather than by where the virus was most prevalent,” it added.

The INMO cited the results of a preliminary survey showing that almost 82% of healthcare workers felt that working in the health service had somewhat or substantially negatively affected their mental health. 

61% of those surveyed last August said their working experience during the pandemic caused them to consider leaving the profession. 

The INMO said that Ireland has “relied heavily” on recruiting internationally for nurses and midwives for two decades.

Due to travel restrictions changing this, the INMO will say staff retention needs to be increased and more work is needed to recruit people not employed at present. 


Tthe Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) vice-president Professor Robert Landers will also told the committee that there is a “severe shortage” of public hospital consultants. 

“We have a serious recruitment and retention crisis with over 700 permanent hospital consultant posts, 1 in 5 of all posts, not filled as needed,” he said. 

These vacancies and shortages “have resulted in excessive workloads being carried by understaffed medical and surgical teams to the detriment of patients”.

He said that it is “almost inevitable” that Covid-19 outbreaks will occur in hospitals when community transmission rates are high, but more can be done to prevent infections being acquired in hospital settings.

“It is clear for infection control reasons that our pre-Covid bed occupancy rate of around 95% needs to be reduced to 80% to 85%. This would require around 2,000 additional hospital beds to maintain service levels,” he will say.

He referenced that the NHS has allocated funding for ‘long Covid’ clinics in England, and he will say that Ireland needs to examine how to replicate this for Irish patients and healthcare staff.

He said respondents to a IHCA survey showed people experiencing symptoms of burnout and work-related stress. 

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to investigate measures being taken to tackle a pandemic-induced mental health crisis. You can help fund them here

“Doctors want to work in a public health service with appropriate staffing levels, properly resourced teams and the required equipment and facilities to provide high quality, safe care to patients,” Landers will say.

“Even before Covid there were not enough doctors and consultants to do this.”

He added there is a “high risk” of increased mental health issues impacting healthcare staff when the pandemic eases.

“Returning to the stressful overstretched ‘business as usual’ model is not an option if we are to avoid an even worse workforce crisis than was the case pre-Covid.”

With reporting from Sean Murray

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel