Private hospital firm under fire as it refuses to pay NHS rates to staff who self-isolate due to coronavirus

Health provider BMI Healthcare is failing to support its own staff during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The company is among the private firms that will treat NHS patients, including those who have the virus, as part of the national effort to cope with overwhelmed hospitals. But UNISON has learned that BMI will not be paying its staff in line with health service workers.

If staff become ill with coronavirus or need to self-isolate they will be paid only for two weeks, even if they contracted the infection from a patient at work. After that they will be entitled only to statutory sick pay, whereas NHS staff would have been paid in full during this period.

Those who are “shielding”, because they are judged to be at greater risk if they contract the virus, will not be paid at all if they do not exhibit any symptoms.

BMI CEO Karen Prins wrote a note to staff at the provider’s Highfield Hospital in Rochdale confirming two patients had tested positive for Covid-19. Since then, some staff at the hospital have had to take time off work due to sickness.

But the note also explained staff who need to self-isolate because they are “at risk”, following government guidance would not be paid. Those have to care for a child or dependent that’s self-isolating have been told they must take annual leave in order to do so.

In addition healthcare workers at the Highfield were told they had to take one week’s annual leave last week while the hospital was closed ahead of preparations to take NHS patients, even though they were available to work.

UNISON has made both NHS commissioners and the government aware of the company’s failure to properly pay sick staff.

One nurse who works for BMI Healthcare said: “Our world has been turned upside down in the past week. We want to play our part in the national effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, but it just seems wrong that we could contract Covid-19 from a patient and may have to go without pay. We all have to provide for our families.”

UNISON North West regional organiser Pat Woolham said: “It’s completely immoral that BMI, which is one of the largest private healthcare providers in the UK, chooses to treat its staff in such an appalling way in the face of this crisis.

“People around the country are uniting in support of health staff who're doing everything to keep us safe. But BMI is protecting its profits rather than its own people.

“On top of the individual safety issues for workers who may be exposed to the virus, there is a significant risk to the public if hospital staff cannot afford to self-isolate when they have symptoms.”

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