Netherlands pledges to compensate healthcare workers suffering from Long Covid
The Cabinet will still draw up a financial scheme for healthcare workers who are no longer able to work due to the long-term effects of Covid-19 complaints, Medical Care Minister Conny Helder told the Tweede Kamer on Wednesday. The complaints are often referred to as Long Covid or Post-Covid. Despite Helder’s promise, a lawsuit seeking compensation for the workers will continue to move forward for now
The Tweede Kamer has been calling on the government to work faster to compensate healthcare workers who fell ill during the first coronavirus wave during the spring of 2020, and who are still suffering from the effects of the disease. Thus far, partly based on the advice of the Council of State, Helder had left it up to employers to arrange the payouts, with the government possibly making a financial contribution.
However, employers in the health care sector have indicated that they are unable and unwilling to participate in this. “The moral and practical involvement of employers is, in their view, insufficient grounds to heed the call for a collective scheme,” said Helder.
The labor unions have already said that the responsibility lies with the Cabinet. In a recently announced lawsuit against the minister, the FNV and CNV unions are demanding an advance of just under 23,000 euros for all healthcare workers who have lost their job because of an inability to work caused by their early coronavirus infection. According to the unions, it concerns about a thousand people.
Helder said that she views the scheme that she is now developing as being separate “from this legal procedure.” The minister did acknowledge that she may have to take into account the outcome of the preliminary relief court proceedings. In addition, the scheme must be feasible and sufficiently defined.
As far as Helder is concerned, people are only eligible for compensation if they have provided “frequent and intensive” care to Covid-19 patients in a hospital, nursing home or care home in the period between March through June 2020. A doctor must also have determined that they have had coronavirus-related complaints for more than two years.
On Wednesday, the Tweede Kamer will debate an extremely critical report from the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) about the government’s actions in the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the lack of protective equipment for healthcare workers who cared for Covid-19 patients in that first wave.
The Eerste Kamer also passed a motion on Tuesday calling on the Cabinet to put 150 million euros into a fund to support healthcare personnel with Long Covid complaints. That amount “makes a generous arrangement possible,” the FNV said. The union said the minister has taken an “outrageously long” time to create a scheme for compensation “at the expense of sick healthcare workers who have been dismissed.”
A spokesperson for FNV confirmed that they will press ahead with the lawsuit at least for the time being. The FNV and CNV want all healthcare workers who became infected before vaccinations were available to be compensated. The first Covid-19 vaccine shot in the Netherlands was administered in January 2021.
The unions are now examining with their lawyers what Helder’s plan means for the lawsuit, but according to the FNV spokesperson there is a good chance that the preliminary relief proceedings will continue. That hearing is scheduled for February 17.
Reporting by ANP