There have been calls for the government to expand the eligibility criteria for its €1000 'recognition payment' for those who have worked on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Announced yesterday, the payment will be tax-free and will be paid to relevant frontline workers and private nursing home staff.
It will also include hospital porters, cleaners, ambulance workers, student nurses and defence forces personnel who were deployed by the HSE testing and vaccination centres, the government later confirmed.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the payment was being given "in recognition of their work in dangerous ad challenging conditions during the pandemic, and for the thousands of lives saved as a result of their efforts."
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has welcomed the news, saying that it is there right thing to do.
NMO General Secretary,Phil Ní Sheaghdha said"
"The decision by Government to grant a €1,000 tax-free payment to nurses, midwives and student nurses is the right thing to do.
"It's a small thank you but it's very welcome. The INMO first lodged a claim for special recognition for healthcare workers in November 2020. Healthcare workers have given their all in the fight against COVID. They have adapted rapidly, worked far beyond their normal responsibilities, and thousands have caught the virus in the line of duty. "
She also said the INMO Executive will consider the details of the bonus in full when it receives them from Government.
Other organisations representing those who have worked on the frontline during the pandemic, but who have not explicitly been included in the eligibility criteria for the payment, have called for such criteria to be expanded.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has called on the Minister for Health to ensure that the unique role of community pharmacy teams during the pandemic is recognised on a par with all other frontline workers.
IPU President Dermot Twomey said the "sector remained open through each lockdown and maintained a full service ensuring continued medicine supply to patients."
"During the worst of the public health emergency and before vaccines were available members of Government publicly commended the role of pharmacies," he continued. "Pharmacy teams went above and beyond, providing an essential service to patients and the public in extraordinarily difficult circumstances."
He said maintaining services during the pandemic came at a considerable cost to pharmacies and pharmacy staff, and brought with it elevated levels of stress, anxiety and burnout.
"As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is appropriate that the monumental efforts made by every healthcare worker is recognised and rewarded. This must include the 13,300 women and men in the community pharmacy sector whose efforts on the front lines have ensured continued healthcare to every community in Ireland throughout the pandemic."
Similarly, Home and Community Care Ireland has written to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the Minister for Older people Mary Butler and the HSE seeking "urgent clarity" on whether home care workers - employed by the HSE or privately - will be eligible for the payment like their counterparts in other healthcare settings.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD later clarified that such home are workers will be included in the Covid bonus payment.
Now, the National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers Supporting People with Intellectual Disability is seeking confirmation that frontline staff in intellectual disability services are included.
We are seeking confirmation that frontline staff in intellectual disability services are included, following the welcome announcement of payment in recognition of HCW contribution to Covid 19 response @AnneRabbitte @DonnellyStephen @mmcgrathtd
— National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers (@NatFedVSP) January 20, 2022
Stephen Donnelly said on Tonight on Virgin Media Television last night that the bonus was for people who "went into higher risk areas".
"There will be workers right across the country; people who drove buses, people who went and worked in shops and made sure there was food on the shelves. There will be a lot of people who will rightly say the contributed, and they did, but this is just a payment for those women and men who day after day went into those higher risk settings."