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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly Leah Farrell via

HSE staff who worked during pandemic should get bonus, Donnelly says

The Health Minister was speaking after touring the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre.

THE MINISTER FOR Health has said he believes all HSE staff, employed during the Covid-19 pandemic, should be given a financial bonus for their heroic efforts.

Stephen Donnelly indicated he would support monetary bonuses for all healthcare workers from those on the frontline treating Covid-patients to those in administration roles.

Minister Donnelly, speaking after touring the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, said HSE healthcare workers should be rewarded.

When specifically asked if this should include a financial bonus, Donnelly replied: “I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible.”

“We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.

“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time, and I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate.“

Referring to staff at University Hospital Limerick – who has valiantly battled to reduce Covid patient cases in the consistently overcrowded setting – Minister Donnelly said: “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”

“We need to recognise they have had an incredibly difficult year we need to be very aware of that and we need to listen to the frustrations that they have.”

The Minister said the country had benefited from some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in Europe which helped delay the Delta wave here.

However, Donnelly warned: “We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to (international) travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home.”

“Unfortunately, there was a certain number who left before they were vaccinated and before they were protected – they shouldn’t have done that – some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need.”

The minister added that the recent spike in cases was “not being driven by international travel, but it is a contributing factor” and that “the response is two-fold, everybody get vaccinated, and keep following the public health guidelines”.

Minister Donnelly said he was aware that in “certain cases” people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of having their first jab, as opposed to the previous gap of four weeks.

He said that this was being “looked at” being rolled out more generally.

A HSE spokeswoman later confirmed that “for operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases; second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective”.

“A number of operational and logistical factors could enable this, including supply of the vaccine, the number of people that have registered and are being assigned appointments to a particular vaccination centres, as well as our desire to ensure people are fully vaccinated as soon as possible, particularly given the challenges posed by the Delta variant,” the spokeswoman said.

“This does not impact on the efficacy of the vaccine,” she added.

Minister Donnelly, pleased with the rollout of vaccinations, said: “Certainly, it is all moving to a place where we are getting more and more people vaccinated. We’ve now surpassed the European target of getting 70% of people fully vaccinated, and there aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year olds.

There will be no immediate change to numbers allowed attend masses, funerals, confirmations, First Holy Communions, according to Minister Donnelly.

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