Bereaved families of frontline staff to be paid

Bereaved families of frontline staff to be paid
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly speaking at a post-cabinet press briefing at Dublin Castle after the Government announced a delay in the Phase 4 lockdown exit. Picture: Julien Behal

The Government plans to set up a compensation scheme for the families of frontline workers who died from Covid-19.

Details of the scheme are not yet available but Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has signalled that a Covid-19 bereavement scheme will be available for all frontline staff, who died from the virus, including staff in HSE-funded services and nursing homes.

His comments follow the death of locum hospital consultant, Dr Syed Waqqar Ali, this week. 

The 59-year-old father-of-five was working on the Covid-19 frontline at the Mater hospital in Dublin when he fell ill in April and spent three months in intensive care before dying on Tuesday. 

Dr Ali, who was laid to rest on Thursday in Newcastle, Co Dublin, is the eighth healthcare worker here to have died from Covid-19.

Minister Donnelly said: “It’s clear from Dr Ali’s colleagues that he was a kind, compassionate, hardworking and highly professional man, working on the front line of Covid-19 to keep us all safe. 

"We remember Dr Ali and the seven other healthcare workers who have lost their lives to Covid-19."

Minister Donnelly further confirmed his intention to introduce a Covid-19 compensation scheme for the families of frontline workers who died from the virus: “The officials in my Department have been working hard on the scheme. I am not in a position to share the proposed details now."

“It is my intention that this scheme will apply to everybody who is a front-line and hands-on worker, putting himself or herself at risk every day to keep the rest of us safe. 

"Sometimes, tragically, as we have seen today, they pay the ultimate price for that,” he added.

The Health Minister said he intends to make the scheme retrospective to cover the “entire Covid-19 period” and to provide for all frontline healthcare workers including locums, staff in HSE-funded Section 38 and Section 39 services, and in nursing homes, who may not be otherwise protected by life assurance schemes: "We will bring this scheme to the Government and I hope to have its agreement that the proposal will be applied retrospectively. 

It is the least we can do to stand with and support our quite extraordinary front-line workers.

“The scheme that will be brought in will be for all front-line workers. It includes Section 38 organisations, Section 39 organisations and nursing homes. 

"Many people who are working in nursing homes do not have these protections. We will make sure that they have them,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) is calling on the Government to hold a “national day of mourning” and series of events to remember those who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

IHF chief executive, Sharon Foley, said: “Although we are not through the pandemic, we must begin to plan for a process of active collective remembrance, reflection and recovery as part of the recuperation in post-Covid-19 Ireland. 

"We are calling for a national day or week of remembrance events for all who have died since the pandemic started in order to express our collective connection with the bereaved and to honour, comfort and support."

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