Nursing home staff across the country gathered at the Department of Health in Dublin on Tuesday to protest a lack of communication over an announced payment to recognize their work throughout the Covid pandemic.
“We are here to give staff a voice, who feel they are being ignored… we are urging the government to speed up payment,” said Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland.
“Including all healthcare workers was Minister Donnelly’s right choice, but it’s been nine months and care home staff have yet to see their payment,” he said.
It was announced in January 2022 that frontline healthcare workers and paramedics would receive a one-time, tax-free special recognition payment of €1,000, and staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices would be also eligible.
More than 2,000 employees across the country have written letters to the department expressing their struggles during the pandemic and their frustration with the delays.
A letter from a Co Clare nurse said: ‘I have never been more stressed than since the days of Covid. I was terrified of contracting the virus and bringing it home. I didn’t go to visit my family or friends in case I got it back, I was so stressed that I ended up having panic attacks.
Representatives of cleaning and catering staff were also present at the rally on Tuesday. Jim O’Brien, chef at Darraglynn Nursing Home in Cork, traveled to Dublin by bus to help deliver the letters and requests.
“Coronavirus does not discriminate whether you have worked in the private or public sector,” he said. “Everyone in the public sector has received their payment… we are tired of waiting for what has been promised.”
Julie McNeela, head of household at Aras Mhuire nursing home in Drogheda, said: “Everyone knows what we went through during Covid… You were telling us back then that we were heroes wearing capes; we just ask Stephen Donnelly “where are you now?”
Among the nurses, caregivers, cleaners and chefs gathered was Sister Mary Ward, an 84-year-old resident of Maryfield Nursing Home in Chapelizod. “I am here to support the nurses and carers at our nursing home who are second to none,” she said.
“They have been with us throughout Covid, and I hope people understand that they were taking their own health into their own hands looking after all of us. I could never blame them, and it’s not just during Covid – it’s day in and day out.
Director of Nursing Hayley Gibbons was there to support her staff at Maryfield Nursing Home, many of whom are working during another Covid outbreak.
“We spent Christmases, birthdays, everything away from our families to be up to these residents, and it would be nice to get some recognition,” she said. “We are a charity retirement home…it would make a big difference to our staff, especially at this time of year.”
The office of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has been contacted to comment on this article.