SIPTU have criticized the way the HSE’s offer to extend a special payment scheme for healthcare workers suffering from long Covid was communicated to union representatives.
The special paid leave scheme, which was introduced for civil service workers at the start of the pandemic, ended yesterday.
Last night unions received an updated proposal from the HSE detailing the new terms of the scheme, which will only apply to healthcare workers.
In a statement to RTÉ’s Saturday program with Katie Hannon, the Department of Health said: “A program has been proposed for eligible public health service workers and an offer of engagement has been made to staff representative bodies at this regard.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Speaking on the same programme, SIPTU Health Division organizer Kevin Figgis said it was unacceptable that the offer had been received late on the day the original program expired.
He said unions had been asking for a commitment on the issue since March, but had been refused.
Mr Figgis said those affected were “very vulnerable and very sick healthcare workers”, who became infected “while performing their duty in the healthcare service”.
More than 200 nurses and healthcare workers are thought to have been diagnosed with long Covid.
Mr Figgis also questioned the 12-month schedule for the program as the long-term effects of long Covid were yet to be determined.
“The unions will have to scrutinize the proposal with a fine-toothed comb,” he said.
“There are a lot of terms and conditions in there. They basically say that a temporary regime would replace the old regime.
“They say it would be for a period of 12 months and it would be similar to other programs.”
“Nothing short of inexcusable”
Commenting on the proposals, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association said what was being proposed “does not go far enough”.
An INMO spokesperson said: “Healthcare workers with longstanding Covid went to work and contracted Covid when there were very few protections available to them.
“Their illness should be treated as nothing less than a workplace injury.
“INMO is concerned that no dialogue on a workers’ compensation scheme has taken place despite the wishes of health unions.
“For the government and the HSE to try to find a solution now after the scheme that was in place has expired is simply inexcusable.
“As a matter of urgency, the HSE, Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure should suspend their termination of Special Paid Leave pending discussions between the health unions and the employer.
“Anything less than a work injury scheme for healthcare workers with long-term Covid will be unacceptable. »
An association representing garda sergeants and inspectors has called for the new scheme to be extended to all public sector workers.
AGSI Ireland General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham said: “AGSI has been advised of the Government’s decision to end SLWP for members who have contracted ‘Long Covid’ from July 1.
“It’s a decision we don’t agree with.
“Our members have proactively responded to all the tasks given to them during the Covid-19 crisis and it is unfair that Sergeants and Inspectors are now financially impacted through no fault of their own and because of this decision.
“If special arrangements are made for other sectors, we will seek to similarly apply these arrangements to AGSI members as well.”
Criticism of lack of commitment
Speaking on the same programme, Minister of State and Green Party TD Malcolm Noonan said it was “truly unfortunate that it took until the 11th hour” for the offer to be made.
He said: “I think it’s really important… that engagement and clarification is absolutely essential now. I think it’s hugely important now that the HSE engages constructively now to try to resolve this. problem.”
The opposition has called for clarity on the scheme and criticized the treatment of workers with long-term Covid.
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin has called on the government to clarify whether recipients of the payment will continue to receive it under the new scheme.
He said: “These workers didn’t just go the extra mile, they put their lives on the line.”
Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall said it was an “appalling way to treat frontline essential workers”.
“It is unforgivable that the government has not engaged with the unions,” she said. “It’s been going on for several months now. The workers have just been ignored.”
In a statement last night, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the government recognizes the work of healthcare workers during the pandemic.
He said: “They went above and beyond the call of duty, working in front line settings clinically exposed to Covid-19, treating Covid-19 positive patients.
“Many of these frontline public health workers have contracted Covid-19 and are still suffering from long term Covid.
“I want to ensure that eligible frontline healthcare workers, who are going through the most difficult phases of the pandemic and who remain absent from the workplace for the long term, are supported and do not experience precariousness in the face of change. special paid leave.
“I hope that the engagement with the representative bodies can be concluded quickly.”