Health minister warned of “contagion risk” from planned extension of COVID-19 bonus payment to out-of-hours healthcare staff

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was told to be careful about a planned extension of the €1,000 pandemic bonus scheme for healthcare staff for fear of “contagion” from workers that had missed out on the scheme.

Mr Donnelly wanted to reward healthcare staff who worked in out-of-hours services on the coalface of healthcare at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, officials from his department said there was a “contagion risk” with the plan and that it could cause “unrest” and “negative media attention” among people who had already been deemed ineligible for the bonus scheme.

The advice was given as Mr Donnelly mulled his options over payment of the €1,000 bonus to out-of-hours clinics, which provide GP services during the evening, on weekends, and on public holidays.

Officials said that while the services were privately owned and operated, some were based in “acute hospital buildings” while others were only on the grounds of a hospital campus.

In a submission for Mr Donnelly, civil servants said he needed to make a clear distinction between the two types of services or else he faced “significant contagion risks” from other workers who missed out on the €1,000 payment.

They detailed how eligibility for the bonus had already been a “significant concern” for trade unions, and especially those excluded, including for example workers in homeless services and GPs.

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