Frontline workers must receive long Covid supports – Naughten

In Disability, Families, Health, News by Denis Naughten


Denis Naughten has called on Government to ensure all frontline workers who contracted Covid through their employment, and who were subsequently forced out of work due to long Covid symptoms, are able to avail of supports until they are fit to return to work.

“At present, 120 frontline healthcare workers with long Covid are availing of a special leave scheme which will lapse in just 30 days. There are hundreds more frontline workers with long Covid, including healthcare workers who contracted Covid since 15 November 2021, who are now left without specific supports,” explained Denis Naughten.

While the government has been considering designating long Covid as an occupational illness since the Regional TDs secured the unanimous approval of the Dáil for such action last November, a decision is still awaited.

Responding to Deputy Naughten in the Dáil yesterday, Minister Heather Humphreys said: “Ultimately, it will be a Government decision as to how we deal with this matter, because, as we know, it was a whole-of-government response to Covid.”

Denis Naughten pointed out that frontline workers were publicly acknowledged in Dáil Éireann during the pandemic as risking their lives, and that of their families, to provide vital services and they cannot now be ignored when they need our support.

“We need to have long Covid designated as an occupational illness and if that does not happen in the coming weeks, we need to see government implement a suite of supports for staff unable to work due to these debilitating symptoms,” concluded Denis Naughten.


Editor’s Note:

Dáil debates

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

What are Dáil debates?

An tOrd Gnó – Order of Business

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

Some 120 front-line healthcare workers with long Covid are on a special leave scheme that will stop in 31 days. Hundreds more front-line workers with long Covid, including healthcare workers who contracted Covid since 15 November 2021, are left without any specific supports. The Government has been considering designating long Covid as an occupational illness, but I want to know when the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, will make a decision on that designation. If long Covid is not designated as an occupational illness, what supports will be put in place for staff who are unable to work due to these debilitating symptoms?

Heather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)

I thank Deputy Naughten for raising this issue. I know he has raised it on a number of occasions. I have written to my colleagues, the Ministers for Health and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I will meet with them. Ultimately, it will be a Government decision as to how we deal with this matter, because, as we know, it was a whole-of-government response to Covid. I will meet with them shortly. We will progress at whatever stage and whatever decisions are made will be brought to Cabinet.



Wednesday, 3 May 2023

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

  1. To ask the Minister for Health the reason the special Covid leave scheme will cease on 30 June 2023 despite the large number of healthcare staff on long-term leave due to long-Covid; if he will review this decision; the number availing of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20489/23]

Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)

The Special Scheme of Paid Leave in respect of long-Covid introduced for a certain cohort of staff in the public health sector is a temporary Scheme, and as the Deputy has pointed out, is due to conclude at the end of June. At present, those who remain unwell beyond that date may utilise the provisions of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme.

I am keenly aware of the impact of the Scheme concluding on employees, and I have asked officials in my Department to review options in this regard.

The HSE have advised me that there are approximately 120 employees currently on the special scheme of paid leave.



Written answers

Thursday, 18 May 2023

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

  1. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the current status of her consideration of long Covid as an occupational illness for front-line workers; if she has been furnished with a final reply from the Minister for Health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23910/23]

Heather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)

Occupational Injuries Benefit is an income support provided by my Department to those injured at work or travelling to and from work, or who contracted a prescribed disease at work.

Covid-19 does not constitute a prescribed disease or illness as set out in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 as it does not meet the criteria laid down in the Act. Section 87(2) of the Act states that a disease or injury shall be prescribed for the purposes of this section in relation to any insured persons, where the Minister is satisfied that—

(a) it ought to be treated, having regard to its causes and any other relevant considerations, as a risk of their occupations and not as a risk common to all persons, and

(b) it is such that, in the absence of special circumstances, the attribution of particular cases to the nature of the employment can be established or presumed with reasonable certainty.

The decision on whether to recognise an illness as an occupational illness is a Member State competence. My Department is aware of the recommendation of the European Commission regarding Covid-19 and has consulted with other relevant departments and Ministers on the matter, including the Minister for Health, and the replies received are currently under consideration.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.