The FNV trade union federation has started a register for healthcare staff who have developed Long Covid, which they suspect may affect thousands of front-line workers.
The public health institute RIVM estimates 238,000 healthcare workers caught coronavirus and, the FNV says, most of the Long Covid reports they have had come from people who work in nursing homes or as home nurses.
The FNV and fellow union federation CNV have for some time been urging the cabinet to set up a fund for healthcare staff who have suffered financially after developing coronavirus during their work. In particular in the early days of the pandemic, proper protective clothing was not available for some workers.
‘The problems are beginning to pile up for these people,’ FNV deputy director Kitty Jong said. ‘In three months time, the first group of healthcare workers with Long Covid will start claiming invalidity benefit because they have been ill for two years… we are hearing from people whose net income has gone down by 30% to as much as 50%.’
Permanent employees are paid at least 70% of their salary for two years if they become unable to work through ill health, although some employers increase this to 100%. After two years, however, they have to claim invalidity benefit which is likely to be lower. Freelance and contract workers are in an even worse financial situation.
The health council Gezondheidsraad is currently working on a strategy to deal with Long Covid and that will be published in early 2022.
The symptoms of Long Covid include concentration and memory problems, extreme tiredness and dizziness. It has been recognized as a work-related illness in the Netherlands, which does mean employers could be held responsible even though it maybe unclear where someone picked up coronavirus.
Drenthe ambulance worker Ben van Omme told broadcaster NOS he had developed Long Covid during the first wave, almost two years ago. ‘Now I am faced with possibly having to sell my house,’ he said. ‘I cannot pay my mortgage with respect and applause.’
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