Stephen Donnelly has admitted that it has taken too long for frontline health workers to receive their pandemic recognition payments, but he expressed confidence that bonuses will be paid to all eligible staff in the near future.
In January, the Government announced a Covid-19 recognition payment of €1,000 for eligible frontline public sector healthcare workers to recognise their unique role during the pandemic. It confirmed the payment would not be subject to income tax, USC, or PRSI.
According to The Irish Times, Mr Donnelly explained the payment is being paid to frontline healthcare workers, including agency staff working for the HSE, employed between March 1st, 2020 and June 30th, 2021 in Covid-19 exposed healthcare environments and will also be payable to part-time workers who qualify.
“This measure was introduced as a token of the appreciation and gratitude that myself, my colleagues in Government and the Irish people have for the ongoing efforts of our frontline public sector healthcare workers to protect us all from the worst impacts of Covid-19,” he said.
But speaking in Cork on Friday, Mr Donnelly acknowledged that the majority of frontline workers were still awaiting the Covid-19 related payment.
“Some of the pandemic recognition payment has been paid. In fact, two of the people I met at the Mercy [University Hospital] yesterday had it land in their bank accounts the night before, which was very, very welcome,” he said.
“But look, it has taken too long. It has taken too long. Government signed off on this, I think it was in February … our healthcare workers, they deserve this. I understand a lot of them are saying, 'can we please get paid?' It is now being processed by the HSE.”
He added: “It has taken longer than any of us would want, but the reason is to make sure that we get the money out to all those groups of people, as well as the obvious ones. My understanding is that thousands have been paid and we just want to get everyone else paid now as quickly as possible.”