Healthcare employees with long Covid can be dismissed
Many healthcare workers who have been battling long Covid since the early days of the pandemic are fearing for their futures as the end of the two-year protection against their dismissal looms on the horizon, according to AD. Nearly 1,000 healthcare employees have been suffering from long Covid complaints for almost two years now.
Almost half of the 4,500 healthcare workers with long Covid have been ill for over a year and have had to lose 30 percent of their salaries as a result of not being able to work. Healthcare workers with long Covid say this has added to the stress of everyday life with the chronic illness.
"When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, we received so many fruit baskets, flowers and support, that was great," a 50-year-old nurse who wished to be known as Tamara told AD. "And now I'm discarded. I have too little air, too little energy to lift people out of bed, to wash and to care for them."
The FNV trade union, which includes healthcare workers, called the lack of support for these long Covid victims a "slap in the face" and is petitioning the government to give them more support. The union points out these "healthcare heroes" have taken a financial hit from salary cuts and medical costs that were not reimbursed.
In Tamara's case, her supervisor and human resources seemed to think she was faking a long illness after contracting the virus in April 2020, she said. “After everything that had happened, I wanted nothing more than to be among my colleagues and clients again," she told AD.
Samira Abdalas, 40, caught the virus from her work in a mental health hospital. As a result of long Covid, everyday activities now make her weak and she still has a cough. Her occupational therapist has advised her to limit all activity to three hours a day, while "healthy people are active 16 hours a day," she pointed out.
Abdalas fears being declared unfit for work. It will mean she cannot buy the apartment she was saving for. She also worries that her physiotherapy appointments for long Covid are not being reimbursed.
“This is so intense," she told AD. "I have the best job there is, but I can't do it right now."
The FNV has criticized the Tweede Kamer's proposed solution of a personnel subsidy that will allow healthcare employees with long Covid to rehabilitate an additional six months. It would come too late for those who are nearing the two-year anniversary of long Covid, the union says.
However, a spokesperson for the healthcare umbrella organization (ActiZ) said two years is not necessarily the hard limit for healthcare employers to dismiss employees. A spokesperson for the Dutch Association of Hospitals (NVZ) pointed out that there is an employee shortage in the sector right now.