'Clerical error' | 

Dublin hospital workers given €1,000 Covid-19 bonus payment told to hand it back

‘Clerical error’ blamed for payouts as over 120,000 eligible staff have so far received their pandemic reward

Peamount Hospital, Newcastle. Picture by Donal Doherty 3/2/1

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Eilish O'ReganIndependent.ie

A hospital has asked a cohort of its staff to pay back the Covid-19 pandemic bonus worth up to €1,000 after telling them they are ineligible.

Several workers at Peamount Hospital in Dublin were given the bonus in June this year, but were then told they would have to pay it back.

The Government announced in January that up to €1,000 was being offered to healthcare workers on the frontline of the Covid battle in recognition of their contribution during the pandemic.

However, a “clerical error” is now being blamed for the payout at Peamount Hospital, which has not responded to queries on how many staff or payments were involved.

The Peamount Healthcare facility, in Newcastle, Dublin, has a mix of services. These include rehabilitation for older people after surgery, and respiratory conditions as well as having a residential section for long-term care, intellectual disability and neurological conditions.

The HSE’s Deborah Jacob, who is head of service for disabilities in the area that includes Peamount Hospital, said: “Due to a clerical error, a number of staff who were not exposed to the listed additional risks received the pandemic special bonus.

“As soon as this error was identified, staff were contacted and informed that as with all overpayments, there would be a requirement to pay this money back.

“At this meeting, staff members were informed that individual arrangements would be facilitated.”

Ms Jacob was responding to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin.

He asked why the decision was made given the workers were in an environment that “warranted their inclusion”, having been among the workers prioritised for early vaccination and being in direct contact with patients.

As of August 17, 23 healthcare workers have died after contracting Covid-19

They worked in the catering department and in security, he said. One member of staff had the payment taken from their holiday pay “without their knowledge or permission,” he claimed.

The latest blunder comes as just over 121,400 staff have so far received the bonus across the HSE and its funded agencies, leaving thousands of others in encompassing nursing homes, hospices, home care and other areas where workers faced daily risk during the worst of the pre-vaccination days of the pandemic.

An outside firm has now been employed in a bid to overcome the delay in administering the payments.

Not all workers get €1,000 and the payment is graded according to contracted hours between March 2020 and June last year.

Those whose contracted hours were below a particular threshold get €600 and anyone working less than four weeks are outside of entitlement.

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In her response regarding the Peamount Hospital payments in error, Ms Jacob said the HSE has set out clear guidelines for organisations, including eligibility criteria and the staff categories that might be included for the Covid-19 payment.

She said staff working with residents and patients were segregated into specific zones and the individuals who were incorrectly given the payment did not work on those zones.

Ms Jacob added: “Following an evaluation of all staff roles and activity, including zones where they worked during the prescribed time frame, a determination of the staff who were eligible to receive the payment was made.”

All managers were requested to inform those staff who were ineligible prior to the issuing of the payment in the June payroll.

She added that the facility regretted the error in paying the bonus to staff who must now pay it back.

Ms Jacob said all staff have been made aware of an appeals process relating to the payments.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said families of health staff who died after contracting Covid-19 in the workplace are being invited to apply for a €100,000 ex-gratia payment.

As of August 17, 23 healthcare workers have died after contracting Covid-19. Most of these deaths occurred in the first year of the pandemic.

Mr Donnelly said: “Following Cabinet approval for the scheme in March this year, the Department of Health and Pobal had put in place a straightforward application process.”

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