Online petition called for 3,000 students to be paid for their work and the risk they are running of contracting coronavirus
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is examining whether to pay a bonus or other stipend to student nurses who work for free in Covid wards around the country.
Confirmation of the move, previously mooted, comes after 12,000 people signed an internet petition overnight calling for the 3,000 students to be paid for both the work and the risk they are running of contracting the life-altering disease.
Some are paid a “pitiful” allowance of €50 a week, or seven euro a day, but this is intended to meet commuting costs, meaning they work for the State for free.
“We can improve the payment that they do receive, but it does need to be seen in that wider context – the fact that it isn’t the norm,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Michael Lowry TD said: "The best Christmas present this Government could give workers is to show solidarity with these extraordinary people who have done so much on the front line – and pay them what they deserve, or make some contribution towards that.”
Mick Barry, Cork North Central TD for Solidarity/PBP, said thousands of student nurses have done placement work in our hospitals in the last couple of months.
“If you study nursing in college, then the Covid risk is on your curriculum,” he said.
“People in other sectors don’t have anywhere near the level of risk that our student nurses have. But despite this, they go to work in our hospitals. And what are they paid? Precisely zero. I think this has to end.”
Mr Varadkar said: “I think we all appreciate the extra work that student nurses have done during the pandemic period to help us to increase our health service capacity, and indeed a lot of student nurses were taken on as healthcare assistants during the first wave.
"They were paid for that purpose.
“But it is important to acknowledge that generally across the public service, students aren’t paid.
Medical students aren’t paid, Garda trainees aren’t paid, teacher trainees aren’t paid and student nurses are not paid until their final year.”
The last year was paid, because it is different, he said.
“They do real work on wards that wouldn’t be done, were it not for the fact that they did it. And that’s why there is special recognition and they do get paid in the pre-reg year, even though most students in the public service, and even the private sector, don’t get paid for their work.”