Roscommon / Galway deputy Denis Naughten has urged the Government to reconsider its decision to terminate the special leave entitlement for frontline health workers who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and have since been unable to return to work due to long COVID symptoms.

The Independent deputy has received confirmation from the Health Minister that these workers will be required to return to work starting 1st April or to make use of the standard sick leave provisions.

In November, the Department of Health and the HSE agreed to extend special leave for 143 staff members suffering from long COVID symptoms for the previous two years. However, he says,  it now appears these staff members will need to revert to the standard sick leave arrangements, despite having contracted the condition while serving on the frontline of our health service”.

The Department of Health had proposed extending this special leave for eight months, recognising that many of these workers contracted COVID-19 before a vaccine was available and in the face of insufficient PPE. Nevertheless, the Department of Public Expenditure has only permitted an extension until the end of March 2024.

Denis Naughten says “frontline workers were publicly commended in Dáil Éireann during the pandemic for risking their lives, as well as their families', to deliver essential services. They cannot now be overlooked when they require our support”.

The deputy had proposed that long COVID be recognised as an occupational disease, but this was rejected by the Government. As a result, he insists  the Government needs to implement a range of supports for all frontline staff incapacitated by these debilitating symptoms.

 

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