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Government again betray frontline healthcare workers while health system is overwhelmed – Mattie McGrath TD

Healthcare workers are amid a tsunami and utterly under resourced; meanwhile, the government approve a €90,000 salary top-up to the new head of the Department of Health. The Leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath, has stated:

“We wish to again send a heartfelt special message to all our front-line healthcare workers. Their courage, selflessness and dedication are humbling. They are continuing to put themselves in the path of this virus. We thank you - for the sacrifices you make, every day and especially during this pandemic. That dedication, commitment and courage deserves our deepest gratitude and admiration.”

“Shamefully, these same front-line defenders are not being fully recognised and acknowledged in a substantive and meaningful way by the government.” 

“Prior to Christmas my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group and I, moved a motion on the floor of the Dail, to properly pay student nurses engaged in front-line work and provide a Christmas / New Year pandemic bonus to all front-line healthcare workers. We felt this was the very least that should occur given the endeavours of those workers throughout this pandemic.”

“Incredibly, the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green government voted against this proposal and then proceeded to use their taxpayer funded spin machine to justify this and further patronise Ireland front-line providers.”

“At the time, they also voted down increasing funding for mental health services in 2021, in order to deal with the dramatic increase in demand for such services. In fact, our offices are hearing stories of these essential services now being abandoned or non-existent.”

“The government's ongoing lack of support for front-line healthcare workers is now further compounded by its extraordinary salary increase for the newly appointed Secretary General at the Department of Health. The increase alone is over €1,600 per week, €90,000 annually or a staggering 43 per cent increase.”

“Putting this huge increase in context, it is the equivalent to the total sum paid in invalidity pension to 9 people for one year.”

“In overall terms it brings the salary of the new secretary general, Mr Robert Watt, to a whopping €300,000 a year. This will be the highest salary paid to any Irish civil servant.”

“In November 2015 Mr Watt stated that claims of staff shortage in the health sector are 'nonsense' Now he is leading the sector at a time of chronic staff shortages in every part of the service.”

Deputy Mc Grath went on: “The decision to pay the person who leads the Health service, even before he takes up the position, shows how utterly out of touch this government really is. The front-line defenders of Ireland's health service have been ignored by the government time and again. Yet, they proceed to sanction an enormous salary top-up to someone, even before they begin work or perform any task within the service.”

“It is also truly incredible that this would occur at a time when hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs or their small businesses due to this pandemic.”

“This latest move by the government, once again illustrates where their priorities rest. It also underlines the government's complete lack of empathy and sends a very damaging message to all our healthcare workers at a time when they are stretched to the absolute limit, mainly due to a lack of strategic planning by the cabinet, concluded Deputy Mc Grath.