Government climbs down over payments to student nurses

THE Government has relented on its decision to totally abolish payments to student nurses.

Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Coughlan said her department would review the reason for the decision and has promised to retain some level of payment for student nurses.

Up to now, students were paid 80% of staff pay during their nine-month placement in hospitals as part of their four-year degree programme.

Last December, however, the Government decided to phase out the payment and abolish it in 2015.

On Wednesday, more than 4,000 student nurses and midwives staged lunchtime protests at 13 hospitals across the country.

The protest coincided with a hearing at the Labour Relations Commission attended by union leaders and representatives of the department of Health and the Health Service Executive. The matter has now been referred to the Labour Court.

A protest march and mass rally has been planned for Wednesday in Dublin when a letter will be delivered to the Department of Health calling for the incoming minister to reverse the decision.

Deputy general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Dave Hughes, said the review did not amount to a commitment to correct a gross exploitation of young people. “Our march will go ahead,” he stressed.

Ms Coughlan said there was a strong argument in favour of retaining some level of payment to student nurses and, following the review, intended to bring a revised proposal to Government.

“I think there is a need to review the existing clinical placement and replacement arrangements and I believe there may be a case in that context to reinstate some financial reward for student nurses during their clinical placements,” she said.

Ms Coughlan said the revised proposal that would be brought to Government would be self-financing and within the parameters of her department’s four-year current budget allocation.

She said the review would not impact on the Government’s decision to reduce by 10% the pay of new entrants to the public service and that new entrants would generally start at the minimum point of the salary scale. And, she said, the review would not impact on arrangements already introduced for student nurses in 2011.

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