Sunday World Newsletter
Sign up for the latest news and updates
The tax-free payment – which will not impact their right to go to court for compensation – has been offered for the last five months
Just six claims for an ex-gratia payment of €100,000 out of a possible 50 have been made by the relatives of healthcare workers who died after contracting Covid-19 in the course of their work, it has emerged.
The tax-free payment – which will not impact their right to go to court for compensation – has been offered for the last five months.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said six claims have been made for the payment.
It comes as the nation marks the contribution of frontline workers, across various sectors – not just in healthcare – who maintained key services during the worst of the pandemic, including throughout lockdowns, with a bank holiday today.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has approved five claims and the sixth is undergoing assessment.
“While we cannot be certain of the total number of healthcare workers whose families may be eligible for this payment, we know that deaths in this cohort were thankfully relatively rare.
"We expect fewer than 50 applications in total.”
The spokeswoman said the department has contacted local human resources departments of healthcare facilities where it is known that a healthcare worker was employed, in order to encourage relatives to apply.
According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), 23 healthcare workers who contracted Covid-19 have died to date since the start of the pandemic.
Last September, Minister Donnelly said he had received approval for the scheme and it included deceased healthcare workers who were designated ‘essential’ during the first phases of the pandemic.
This includes GPs and others working in primary care, including administrative staff.
It also includes disability services staff, private staff in nursing homes and throughout the healthcare system.
This payment is in addition to any other arrangements a person may have in place – for example, HSE employees may be entitled to an injury grant based on a multiple of salary – or benefit that may be payable on death and does not impact their legal rights.
It “will be open to the families of workers from across the healthcare system who have passed away,” the minister said.
The payout, which is administered by Pobal, follows similar schemes in other countries, including the UK’s NHS which makes a payment of £60,000 (€66,798).
Minister Donnelly said: “When this pandemic began, there were no vaccines, and our understanding of Covid-19 was limited.
“Nevertheless, we had to ask healthcare workers to come to work in workplaces where we knew Covid was present.
"They were required to assume an unknown level of risk in their work, a level that had not existed before, and they took on that risk.
“The Government has already taken steps to recognise this phenomenal dedication but in a small number of cases, the worst happened, and something more is appropriate.
“Many healthcare workers contracted Covid-19 – over 39,000 according to the HPSC.
“Most of those cases were reported in the most recent waves of infection, and, thankfully, vaccinations have meant that the vast majority of people recovered.
"Unfortunately, a small number of healthcare workers contracted Covid-19 in work and sadly passed away.
“Since the first death occurred, this has been of significant concern to myself and my colleagues in Government.
“And I am now putting in place this scheme to try to alleviate any short-term financial hardship the families of healthcare workers who lost their lives may be suffering; and as a gesture of further recognition on behalf of the people of Ireland.
“I am keenly aware of tragic cases where families have been left without any income, for example where a worker was a locum or temporary worker.
“This payment will mean that these families will have some support from the state to provide for their needs and serves as an acknowledgment of our debt of gratitude to the extraordinary sacrifices their loved ones made to protect others.”
Eligibility extends to hospital services, therapy services, testing and tracing staff, workers in laboratory, drug treatment and addiction, hospice services, pharmacy, primary care, dental, blood donation and tissue or organ donation and related services.
Also included are residential careers, including those for nursing homes, mental health and substance abuse, disabilities and children’s residential services.
It also extends to homecare, home-help and other health services in the community such as caring for the homeless, services provided by minor injury units, maternity services and food safety and environmental services.