SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said the £500 recognition payment for health and social care staff can be delivered by Christmas if managed appropriately.
He was speaking after being contacted by a large number of independent staff who have yet to receive their payment.
Staff in care homes, domiciliary care and private hospitals have all reported not receiving their payment.
The South Down MLA said:
“Health and social care staff were told at the beginning of this year that they would receive their £500 recognition payment. The year is nearly over and many are still waiting. These were the staff who were at the very front of our fight against Covid-19 last year. I have listened to the first-hand accounts of staff who were decked out in PPE, who worked for hours without a break in unimaginably difficult conditions and were forced to isolate from friends and family in order to keep them safe.
“These were the people who held the hands of dying patients when their families were not permitted to see them and many are now dealing with the long-term mental health impacts of their experiences. Getting this payment delivered has been kicked down the road for too long.
“Having worked with those in the independent sector it is clear that the communication, or lack thereof, from the Department of Health has been key factor in the frustration they are now feeling. Some were told they would receive their payment in July, then Autumn and some feel as if they are getting nowhere. If £55million could be paid out to over 83,000 HSC staff then what is the delay here?
“I believe the Health Minister can deliver this payment before Christmas if the department moves to issue it via a two phased approach. He should pay those who have been approved as opposed to waiting until everyone eligible has been approved this will speed the process up significantly.
“This is a significant gesture to those who helped get us through the very worst of Covid-19 and exemplified the best of humanity. The Health Minister must deliver on his promises.”