The Government is “actively considering” giving a bonus to healthcare workers in recognition of their efforts and sacrifices during the pandemic, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheal Martin said the Government is assessing how frontline health workers will be recognised by a State gesture.
He told the Dail this could be in terms of a monetary award and annual leave.
Labour leader Alan Kelly said the State needs to show gratitude in a “meaningful way” that will make an impact on health workers’ lives.
Mr Martin added: “I agree entirely that workers across the economy, and without question our public servants and frontline healthcare workers, have made an extraordinary contribution to helping society deal with an unprecedented pandemic which has turned upside down all of our lives.
“Without frontline healthcare workers we would have been in extreme difficulty in meeting and dealing with the challenge of the pandemic.
“The sense of community and solidarity in this country as we continue to fight Covid is truly remarkable.
“We must continue in that way. Frontline workers in particular put their lives at risk.
“Many were infected with Covid and, as we know, some staff lost their lives.”
They are seeking special recognition of their response to the virus. I do not think it can be deniedAlan Kelly, Labour leader
In April last year, Mr Kelly proposed that the State should gift healthcare workers a 1,000 euro pandemic payment to honour and recognise their work to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
Yesterday, trade unions, including the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO), Siptu and Forsa, met with the HSE and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to discuss a bonus payment for healthcare workers.
Mr Kelly said: “They are seeking special recognition of their response to the virus. I do not think it can be denied.
“In February last, the Tanaiste (Leo Varadkar) suggested that they be given a cash payment or additional leave.”
Mr Kelly added that the time for “platitudes is over”.
Mr Martin continued: “The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has been assessing the situation in terms of the European experience and the balance as outlined by Deputy Kelly in terms of monetary award and annual leave.
“How we recognise the efforts made by workers, in particular frontline healthcare workers, during this pandemic is being actively considered.
“As stated by the deputy, a claim on behalf of all public health service workers is before the WRC.
“We will give that active consideration, as the way to do this.”
Wednesday brought 581 additional confirmed cases of Covid-19, the Department of Health said.
As of midnight on Tuesday, there were 60 patients in hospital with the disease, of whom 17 were in intensive care units.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “We are continuing to see an increase in the incidence rate of Covid-19, and so it is important that we do as much as possible to control the spread of the disease as the vaccination programme opens to all adults over the age of 18.
“The continuing high levels of adherence to the public health advice, high levels of vaccine uptake and community engagement with testing centres around the country are all reasons to be positive.
“If you display any symptoms of Covid-19, it is important that you isolate straight away and come forward for a PCR test.”
Daily case numbers may change due to future data review, validation and update, owing to the cyber attack on the HSE.