Some care home staff have yet to receive special payments awarded for their work during the Covid pandemic, it has emerged.
The one-off amounts of up to £500 were announced more than 18 months ago.
An assembly member has now urged those who have been left out to come forward to ensure they are paid.
DUP MLA David Hilditch said even the special award would never fully compensate care home workers for their efforts.
His comments came after the Department of Health admitted: "There are still some payments to be made to those who have left their previous employer or worked for organisations that have ceased trading."
Hundreds of independent care home staff have received the payments even though they have quit their jobs.
They are among more than 9,850 people awarded a total of £4.22m — and overall the 'recognition payment' to all care home and domiciliary care providers in the independent sector has totalled £16.67m.
The tax-free sum was announced by Health Minister Robin Swann in January last year as a gesture to staff who had worked through the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But it has now been confirmed that phase two of the scheme included employees who have since left the sector or changed employees.
The Department of Health said: “A large number of staff have simply changed employers rather than have left the sector. We would not be in a position to provide figures around those that have left the sector.”
Mr Swann said a total of more than £16.67m had been paid out in phase one covering a total of 28,470 individuals.
At the same time “over £4.22m has been paid out to 9,857 individuals under phase two.”
Mr Hilditch said: “The role played by healthcare staff throughout the pandemic was invaluable, This was not just within the NHS but also in the independent sector.
“Good progress has been made in processing payments for those working outside the NHS but there are still some gaps remaining.”
Mr Hilditch, who was a member of the assembly committee on the response to the Covid-19 crisis, went on: 2Those whose employer has ceased trading can use the online portal to apply, but it is vital this is advertised properly so those who are eligible are aware of its existence.”
The East Antrim MLA stressed: “Anyone who was working within the care sector but who has not received a payment should seek assistance to clarify what is happening.
“This payment can never fully compensate for their efforts during the pandemic but it is important that anyone who is eligible does receive it.”
The department also made clear, however, it would not be fair to average out the total amount spent.
“To qualify for the full £500 an individual must have worked 1,725 hours over the period,” a statement went on.
“Where an individual worked less than this then their payment would be a pro-rata amount depending on the hours worked.”