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‘Taken for granted’


UNCERTAINTY Aramark have said they are still waiting confirmation from the government as to who qualifies for the €1,000 Covid payment.

Michael Gallagher

Staff who risked their lives at the height of the Covid pandemic in Mayo University Hospital feel they have been forgotten about.
The Mayo News can reveal that catering staff who worked in the ‘Covid Ward’ throughout the lockdown still don’t know whether they will be given the €1,000 bonus payment announced by the government last January.
In an exclusive interview with an Aramark worker who provided food for the patients in MUH, it’s clear that the fear experienced during Covid has now been replaced by utter frustration.“We’ve been forgotten about. We put our lives on the line at the worst of times and now we’re not important,” the staff member, who wishes to remain anonymous stated, before she described the emotions experienced before vaccines were developed and applied.
“Those terrible days will never leave my mind. Everyone was so afraid – the nurses, doctors, our staff and of course the patients too. The whole world seemed to be gripped by Covid. Everything had stopped. Life had changed as we knew it and we were all praying for a vaccine to be developed.
“I needed to work and earn a wage for my family, but I was gripped by fear. I had to work to survive financially, but I firmly believe that I risked my life every single day. This was during the brutal first wave when it was spreading like wildfire and killing people of all ages. This was before the vaccines and before there was any light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
She vividly describes the fear experienced by workers who were afraid of contracting the virus and bringing it home.
“At that time, we were just trying to do our job, stay alive and make sure everyone else stayed safe too. In truth, it was a life and death struggle – simple as that!
“My job wasn’t well paid, but that was okay. I knew the pay grades before I joined the company, but I never expected to be up close and personal with a murderous global pandemic.
“There was huge pressure on us – at work, but there was also the huge worry that we would bring Covid out of the hospital and carry it to our loved ones at home. This was and is one of the saddest, toughest aspects of the whole thing.
“Some of us did lose loved ones to Covid during this time and that adds to the horror of the whole thing. Of course, we don’t know where they contracted the virus but there is always the lingering doubt that it may have come from the hospital. That’s how dangerous it was to be working there at the very height of covid.
“I firmly believe, and will always believe that the staff put their bodies and lives on the line to help keep patients fed. We did this because it was our job, but also because we cared and wanted to help people,” she said.
Now it appears catering staff working at the frontline in hospitals at the height of the pandemic may not be eligible for the ‘Covid bonus’ announced five months ago by the Government.
“Now, we’re told we won’t be getting the ‘Covid bonus’ which was supposed to be paid to frontline workers. We’re devastated. It’s not Aramark’s fault. It’s the fault of the Government.
“It’s as if we didn’t actually do what we did. It’s as if we weren’t really there at all. What’s a frontline worker if it’s not us? We were in the ward feeding Covid patients at the height of the horror. The frontline doesn’t come close to describing what we were doing – we were well past the frontline. Now, that’s all been forgotten and we’re devastated. We’ve looked for answers and nobody is giving us any. Nobody cares. We risked our lives and the lives of our loved ones, yet we’re now cast aside. It’s so unfair,” she added.
In a statement to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), Aramark said they and other private sector companies are still awaiting direction from government on whether the employees are eligible for the payment or not.
“The Department of Health have advised the HSE that it shall shortly publish information for employees who are/are not covered by the Government decision to award the Pandemic Special Recognition Payment,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, RTÉ revealed recently that just one in eight health service workers eligible for the €1,000 Covid-19 pandemic bonus have been paid the money, almost five months after it was announced by Government.
At the start of June only 13,000 of the more than 100,000 HSE workers entitled to the bonus have received it.