‘Snail’s pace’ of payment rollout criticised for frustrating health staff
Less than a third of HSE workers have received the pandemic bonus worth up to €1,000 that was announced by the Government in January.
It has also been revealed that a circular has not yet been published that would allow the recognition payment to be made to workers in the private sector – including nursing homes – for their efforts.
The latest official figures, dated last Friday, show 33,431 payments have been processed at a cost of €32.3m.
This represents roughly a third or fewer of the HSE staff who are likely to qualify. A HSE spokesperson said it expected the number of eligible staff “to be in excess of 100,000”.
The payment is being made at two rates – €1,000 or €600 – and has several criteria.
Siptu health division organiser Kevin Figgis said: “The current snail’s pace of the HSE in rolling out the pandemic payment is totally unacceptable and causing great frustration among staff who were told that they would be receiving the pandemic payment back in January.
"This is coupled by the failure of the Department of Health to issue a similar document to give effect to a recognition of healthcare workers working in non-HSE and Section 38 employments. This includes private nursing home staff, private-sector home helps, agency workers covering for direct employees who were out sick due to the virus, contract cleaners, contract security staff and also other public-sector employees not employed by the HSE including Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics.”
In a letter to HSE managers yesterday, Tony Fitzpatrick, chair of the staff panel of health-sector unions, sought a meeting with the HSE and the department within seven days.
“The Government announcement was made on the 19th of January 2022 and despite the passage of time a circular has not been drafted to give effect to that government announcement for those that work in the private nursing home sector, agencies, and Section 39s,” he said.
“Our concerns are heightened given the recent public statement from the Minister of State within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Ossian Smyth TD who confirmed all monies had been paid from his department to the Department of Health or HSE to fund the recognition payment and he was unclear why the delays incurred to date have materialised.”
A HSE spokesperson said 26,000 individuals had received the bonus by June 3.
“Now that the initial payments have started, we expect the rest to follow quickly,” she said.
She said processing the payments had been complex and time consuming, and while the “pace of payment for the pandemic award was initially slow... it has significantly picked up”.
“It is our intention to have the majority of eligible employees paid in the coming weeks,” she added.