Over half of hospital cleaning and catering staff have yet to receive the Pandemic Special Recognition payment, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Aisling Dolan said the fact that these workers are waiting a year and a half for their payment is wholly unacceptable and unfair.
“The Government made a decision in January 2022 to acknowledge the incredible work by healthcare staff during the Covid pandemic and the service given in a crisis to help keep people safe. These workers went to work every day with patients who were very ill with Covid-19 and faced more risk for themselves and especially vulnerable family members when they came home,” Senator Dolan outlined.
“The Pandemic Special Recognition Payment of €1000 is a very welcome and just acknowledgement of their work. Agency and contract staff working in catering and cleaning services were very much part of this cohort who played a vital role at this time – they provided essential services in infection control and bringing meals to patients on Covid-19 wards. It is only right and fair that these workers receive their payment. However, I am dismayed to learn that over half of them have not received anything, particularly at this time of rising costs.
“Many of these staff are on lower incomes and despite having worked as hard as and alongside their colleagues, they have seen all other groups being paid while they continue to wait. HSE employees including nurses, doctors, health and social care workers all received their payments last year.
“I raised this in the Seanad in November 2022 when 124,000 people in HSE and Sector 38 had received payment. Today I have learned that 205,000 eligible healthcare workers have received payments.
“I understand that KOSI, an independent audit and accountancy corporation has been appointed to manage payments to contract employees. There are 4 cohorts for payment, currently, just 45% of payments have been completed to Cohort 3 for Agency/Contractor roles working in the HSE. All other cohorts are at close to 90% payments completed. Employers have responsibility to make claims directly to this cohort, but I’m aware that a number of applications for payment have been returned due to discrepancies and this is contributing to delays.
“There appears to be several layers of red tape here, which unfortunately is hitting those who need the payment more than most. The onus is on the Department of Health and the HSE to engage with KOSI to establish what the timeline for payments to be made is. If additional resourcing is needed to fast-track these claims, then that must be provided. And we also need to look at issuing phased payments to groups of approved eligible contract healthcare workers within these agencies.
“We asked these workers to step up at the start of Covid – to do their jobs in spite of risks of sickness before they all had personal protective equipment. We asked them to go to work day after day with rising case numbers – and they did. They didn’t ask the Government to wait until there was a vaccine, they stepped up and got on with it, putting patients first.
“That they have had to wait almost 18 months for a payment to recognise their contribution is unfair and inexcusable. All outstanding payments must be made without delay.”