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Government further extends paid leave scheme for public health workers suffering from long-Covid

Unions have welcomed the move.

A TEMPORARY PAID leave scheme for public health workers suffering from long-Covid will be further extended for another three months, the Government has confirmed.

The Special Scheme of Paid Leave was introduced in July 2022 for eligible healthcare workers suffering from the effect of long-Covid. Long-Covid is when people who have been infected with Covid-19 continue to display symptoms after the infection is gone.

The effects can last months, weeks or longer in some cases. Symptoms vary widely but can include extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory and thinking (‘brain fog’), problems sleeping (insomnia) and more.

While the paid leave scheme for healthcare workers was originally meant to last for a year, it was extended a number of times before it ended on 31 March.

However, the Government came in for strong criticism from unions and the opposition over this date, and the decision has been the subject of an industrial relations claim from health sector staff representative bodies.

The matter has been referred to the Workplace Relations Commission.

In a statement this evening, the Department of Health said that Minister Stephen Donnelly had sought a further extension to allow for further conciliation to take place on the matter.

“The Department of Health is pleased to confirm that the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform have this morning approved a 3 month extension to facilitate this,” the statement reads.

Fórsa trade union, which represents more than 30,000 healthcare workers, welcomed the announcement.

“Long-COVID continues to be a serious health problem for hundreds of healthcare staff. It is a condition without precedent and creates a challenge both for those workers affected and the health services more generally,” said national secretary for health and welfare, Ashley Connolly.

It is essential that we can develop an agreed and permanent solution for those affected. The temporary extension announced today provides a bit of much needed breathing space for conciliation, and will provide some peace of mind for affected workers following months of uncertainty and worry.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation also welcomed the move. 

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