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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
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covid bonus

HSE 'still in process of identifying' health workers eligible for €1,000 pandemic bonus payment

The payment of the bonus was due to begin in April.

THE HEALTH SERVICE says it is still attempting to identify workers who are eligible for the €1,000 pandemic bonus despite being asked to begin making the payment in April.

Representative groups and the Minister for Health have raised concerns about the slow rollout of the tax-free bonus, details of which were announced last month.

Private groups have also said they have not yet received any details about how or when they will be paid, despite Stephen Donnelly saying last month that this information would be made available shortly.

The payment was first mooted late last year and formally announced in January as a gesture of gratitude for the work of healthcare employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Those eligible for the payment include full-time and part-time health workers who worked in settings exposed to the virus for at least four weeks between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021.

They include healthcare workers in nursing homes, porters and cleaners in healthcare settings, hospice workers, student nurses, staff in HSE test centres, members of the Defence Forces seconded to healthcare roles and staff in private sector nursing homes.

Both full-time and part-time workers are eligible for the payment, though the amount due to the latter has to be calculated on a pro-rata basis.

Employees who left or moved employment within the period are also eligible, though must fill in a declaration form to request payment by the end of June.

The HSE was requested on 19 April this year to begin identifying those who are eligible for the payment to begin paying them “as soon as possible”.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reported last week that only two hospitals had paid the bonus to workers since it was signed off on, although a small number of others are expected to begin issuing payments in the coming weeks.

The union’s Director of Professional Services Tony Fitzpatrick told The Journal that the system had been “extremely slow and sluggish” since its announcement in January.

“The risk is that the good has been taken out of this payment because of that delay,” he said.

“We can’t overstate the level of fatigue that exists within the workforce, and this is something you would imagine would give morale a bit of a boost, but it’s been very ham-fisted in the way it’s been dealt with.”

He also said that the health service had been efficient at prioritising healthcare workers for vaccination during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that a similar system could apply when it comes to paying the pandemic bonus.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said last week that it is taking too long for the bonus to be paid to healthcare workers, though he believed all eligible staff will receive the payment soon.

Announcing details the bonus in April, Donnelly said the “next phase” of the payment to staff not employed by the HSE or Section 38 agencies – groups funded under the Health Act and whose staff are considered public servants – would be “announced in due course”.

A HSE circular was issued to staff contracted with the HSE and so-called Section 38 agencies, but no details about further payments have been revealed.

Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadgh Daly told The Journal that his group had received no details yet about the payment or about which staff would be eligible for it.

“What we’re waiting on now, and what ultimately the staff and the sector are waiting on, is a timeline and a definitive date as to when it’ll be paid,” he said.

“Even if that came out, it would give people some sense of when they’re likely to expect it.

“When it was announced in January, people were probably planning that it would be useful for making summer holidays or back-to-school costs, but there’s a level of frustration among staff that they still don’t know definitively.”

Daly added that the last information the group had received was in mid-April and that he was calling on the Government to expedite the payment and to confirm when and how nursing home staff would be paid.

In response to queries, a spokesperson for the HSE said the health service is still progressing the payment across hospitals and community services for staff who are eligible for the payment.

“It is expected that there will be an increasing number of staff who receive payment in the coming weeks,” a statement read.

“The HSE continues to be committed to ensuring that payments are made to all eligible staff as a matter of priority.”

The Department of Health, which must approve the payment for non-HSE or Section 38 workers, was contacted for comment.

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