A Notice of Motion recognising the importance of the NHS, and the contribution of care workers through the Covid-19 pandemic has passed unanimously at Monday's meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. The motion put forward by Mournes Councillor, Cllr Glyn Hanna, seconded by Rowallane Councillor, Cllr William Walker also stated that the Council would ask Health Minister Robin Swann to administer a thank you payment to them.

The Motion read "This Council recognises the importance of our National Health Service and the heroic contribution of our health and social care workers, and care home workers, throughout the pandemic, express our thanks for their commitment to the care for community and will write to the Health Minister Robin Swann MLA asking him to administer a thank you payment of at least £500 as a practical demonstration of our gratitude."

Daisy Hill Hospital healthcare workers. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Daisy Hill Hospital healthcare workers. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Speaking after reading his motion Cllr Hanna said "All the staff in the NHS have really stepped up, plus staff in care homes and social care area in general have made a massive sacrifice for the people they look after. I know we are in the middle of the second wave of Covid-19 and all staff are exhausted, fatigued and many have suffered with Corona after getting infected through their work.

Cllr Glynn Hanna

"I really feel for all those people, who because of their sacrifice became ill. I'm also thinking of those Doctors and Nurses and hospital workers, staff in old folks homes and other areas of care that have lost their lives through this Covid-19. These medical carers have gave their all for us and should not be forgotten."

Suggesting that a £500 token should be given to these people Cllr Hanna continued "I as an employer, if I had staff that stepped up to the mark and put massive efforts into achieving a goal like the health service and all the carers have done, I believe they do need some recognition and a small token. I know if it was in business they would probably get a bonus. I believe that this gesture from all of us would be a great idea. These medical staff risk their health and lives for us all and I hope all councillors will support the motion." Cllr Hanna suggested if the motion was passed all councils should be contacted to endorse the idea.

Supporting the motion Cllr Terry Andrews said "All of us have seen at first hand the sheer professionalism, the tireless devotion and sense of duty and care shown by staff who are under so much pressure, going the extra mile to deliver a standard and service that is second to none" Cllr Andrews proposed an amendment to the motion calling for nursing registration and social care fees to be put aside for 2021. The amendment was accepted.

Cllr David Taylor suggested writing to the executive collectively to ensure it can be delivered on a cross party basis, which was also agreed although he said we could never repay the work that has been done "Payments whilst it's a very good idea and it has merit, even that's not enough. We will never be able to repay what they have done for us over this period of time."

Cllr Roisin Mulgrew added "The frontline staff we are referring to within the health service have endured many years of pay freezes and very low percentage of pay rises when they were thrown at them like crumbs from the table and I know that many health officials actually said while they were honoured when the entire community came out and clapped for them on a Thursday night throughout the first stage of the pandemic, really what our health workers need is proper and appropriate payment for the job that they do."

Giving a timely warning Cllr Andrew McMurray said "This pandemic is a long way from being contained or indeed over so while happy to support and happy to encourage this it should be no way a signal that we are out of the woods."

Cllr Henry Reilly thought private sector workers need to be acknowledged too  "I would be concerned that people in the private sector who have been really outstanding in how they have done home visits, care in the community, because they would obviously be excluded. The Government's not going to give them £500 each when they are private employees." said Cllr Reilly asking the question if there was some way the council could give them recognition at a later stage.

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