Department of Health refused COVID-19 pandemic recognition payment to staff at Irish Blood Transfusion Service despite pleas for them to be included

A decision by the Department of Health to exclude frontline blood transfusion workers from a COVID-19 bonus payment scheme led to plummeting morale for the workers who were rejected.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) said that 434 of their staff had faced higher exposure to infection because of working closely with thousands of donors, blood, body substances, and potentially infectious materials during their every-day work.

In an appeal to the Minister for Health, the IBTS said they were “very concerned” about the exclusion of their staff from the €1,000 pandemic bonus scheme and that it was having a “very negative impact on staff morale” when they were struggling to retain people.

Correspondence reveals how the Department of Health said that blood transfusion staff had not been exposed to COVID-19 because people with symptoms were urged not to attend donation clinics.

In response, the IBTS said this was difficult to square with the fact that an entire team in Cork had been exposed, and subsequently developed COVID-19, after being involved in providing services.

They also said there were multiple occasions where non-symptomatic people had attended clinics with their donations subsequently recalled due to notification of a positive test.

A letter from the IBTS said: “We accept that we asked donors with symptoms not to attend donation clinics, but so too did every other health service provider, including hospitals.”