hard times | 

Health staff still waiting on their €1,000 Covid bonus as some turn to food banks for help

Stephen Donnelly

Eilish O’Regan

The majority of healthcare workers are still waiting for their pandemic payment of up to €1,000 as it was revealed yesterday some nurses are so hard up they are having to turn to food banks.

It has been paid by Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and the hope is HSE-run hospitals will add it to this month’s wages but it is unclear how soon all voluntary hospitals will get the funding.

It comes as nurses at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) annual conference heard of the financial plight of a growing number of their colleagues.

Mick Schnackenberg, a general nurse at Tullamore Hospital, said: “As a nurse who lives in the midlands, I can tell you that nurses are not immune to food poverty. At least six nurses are receiving assistance from food banks. This is shocking in 2022.”

He told the gathering in Sligo, attended by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly: “Over the past three days, we have heard about the pressure we are all under in our workplaces but we are not just feeling the pressure in the workplace.

“The cost of just getting to work, especially for those that work in the community, is spiralling.

“We are also working in circumstances where we are suffering the effects of inflation and (nurses) face real economic difficulties in providing for themselves and their families in the economic climate.

“Our members, as frontline workers who spend most of their income providing day-to-day essentials for themselves and their families must not be left to ravages of inflation.

“We are being hammered by steep rises in fuel costs. We don’t have the option to work from home. I have colleagues who are forced to take leave as they cannot afford to buy food to make their kids’ lunch for school and also pay to travel to work and pay outrageous car parking fees.

“It is 2022, nurses and midwives have proved our worth. As part of public pay talks, we need the Government to bring some relief to our nurses and midwives.”

INMO president Karen McGowan told the minister: “There is a cost to being a nurse or a midwife before we even cross the threshold of our places of work.

“We do not have an option to work from home one or two days a week. When we are rostered in, we are expected to show up. There is a significant cost when you have to drive to and from work for every shift.

“We are driving lengthy distances because it is becoming impossible to afford a home to buy or rent near our places of work. This is not just an urban phenomenon.”

Mr Donnelly was told the good was gone out of the payment because it was dragging on so long.

The minister, who paid tribute to the heroic work of nurses during the pandemic, said it pales into insignificance given what they did.

He said: “I would have liked to have it paid three months ago but we had to get it right.”

He acknowledged how the Ukraine crisis had affected the cost of living and said exploratory talks on a new wage agreement would begin next week with a view to accelerating talks.

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