Government 'dilly-dallying' over rewards for health workers

Government 'dilly-dallying' over rewards for health workers

Trade unions have accused the Government of dilly-dallying by delaying rewards that are expected to be given to health workers. File picture: Stockbyte

Trade unions have accused the Government of "dilly-dallying" by delaying rewards that are expected to be given to health workers.

The warning follows a Labour Court recommendation earlier this week for the HSE to engage with unions to discuss increased compensation and benefits for health workers who faced increased risks on the frontline of the pandemic. 

In that ruling, the HSE estimated 10 days extra leave for health workers would cost at least €377m, although it also says the unions did not stipulate to the court what recognition they were seeking.

The Irish Examiner reported that Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath estimated that increased annual leave for all 300,000 public sector workers could cost in excess of €1bn. 

'Health workers should be seen as separate'

Tony Fitzpatrick, the chair of the staff panel of trade unions which represents eight health unions, said health workers must be seen separately to other groups. He said unions have been discussing this with the HSE since November. 

“The Government has been dilly-dallying on this issue and now it is blowing up in their face,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick, a member of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said a new bank holiday to mark the pandemic should be a separate issue to extra annual leave:

"Healthcare workers have to be looked after," he said. "All along, we said healthcare workers need to be recognised."

Recognition including one-off bonus payments or additional leave had been given in the North and in France, Mr Fitzpatrick said.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The department shall be carefully studying the recommendation with health service management and shall then consider the appropriate next steps,”  and added that the department understands the Government hopes to address this in the autumn.

In the interim, the department and the HSE acknowledge frontline healthcare workers’ critical and significant response to this pandemic and supports the ongoing work to appropriately recognise those efforts.

Free seminar on burnout 

Meanwhile, a free seminar on burnout and the impact of moral injury on healthcare workers hosted by Cork ARC Cancer Support House takes place on Monday. 

Professor Gaye Cunnane, director of wellbeing at the Royal College of Physicians Ireland (RCPI) will address the seminar. 

Prof Gaye Cunnane, director of wellbeing at the Royal College of Physicians Ireland will address the seminar on burnout and the impact of moral injury on healthcare staff on Monday. 
Prof Gaye Cunnane, director of wellbeing at the Royal College of Physicians Ireland will address the seminar on burnout and the impact of moral injury on healthcare staff on Monday. 

She said: “The system is not back to normal, we are still dealing with long waiting lists that became longer during the heights of the pandemic.” 

The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing challenges for healthcare staff around mental health and well-being, she said.

“We know from studies that burnout and a poor sense of wellbeing are endemic in the health service,” she said, referring to work by Prof Blanaid Hayes, Dr Ide Delargy, and Practitioners Health Matters. 

Prof Cunnane described burnout as “emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation due to prolonged exposure to emotionally demanding situations.” 

Her talk will also address the impact of moral injury on staff, meaning she said: “when there is a discrepancy between available and known standards of care.” 

The lecture is expected to offer solutions for “working together for organisational change". 

• You can register to attend the webinar by clicking here, or by visiting CorkCancerSupport.ie.

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