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€100 a week for our student nurses 'a slap in the face' - SF to challenge issue in Dáíl

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Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD

A €100-a-week award to student nurses by the Government has been rejected as insufficient and unfair.

The Dáil is today expected to hear protests from the Opposition over the gesture, with Sinn Féin planning to read out the testimonies of young nurses and midwives appalled by what they have seen and had to risk in the Covid-19 pandemic.

"They won't stay in this State and work in the healthcare service if they don't see fairness," warned David Cullinane, Sinn Féin's spokesman on health, yesterday.

"I don't believe that €100 is anywhere near a fair amount," he added.

The Government accepted a recommendation from Professor Tom Collins, chair of Dublin Institiute of Technology (DIT), that those on placement receive a pandemic grant for their otherwise-unpaid placements in hospitals, although final-year students had been getting €50 a week towards transport and meals.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said its student representatives say the frontline situation has changed in the third wave - which caused placements of first to third year students to be suspended last weekend for the next fortnight.

The students have called on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to return to a scheme similar to that of last March when the virus first struck.

This would mean healthcare assistant contracts for all students whose placements are suspended.

It would also move interns up to healthcare assistant pay (€10.70 an hour) in recognition of their increased workloads and risk.

They are also seeking clarity on what will happen to placements over the coming months.

Hollow

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "They are thanked for their work so far, but the thanks ring hollow when their reasonable demands for fair remuneration go unanswered.

"There is still time for the minister to do the right thing: offer the students contracts as healthcare assistants to boost staffing and move up interns' pay to reflect their new workloads and risks.

"Our student members tell us they feel left up in the air.

"Last-minute decisions are being made about their placements, with no clear plan in place for the future.

"Many students tell us that they want to make a direct contribution to the fight against Covid, and are seeking healthcare assistant contracts while their placements are suspended."

A further Dáil motion on pay for student nurses is to be introduced today after the Government reaped heavy criticism for voting one down before Christmas.

Government backbenchers who experienced a public backlash on the issue complained at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parliamentary party meetings that they had been left without effective speaking points on the issue of pay for student nurses.

Mr Cullinane said there now had to be negotiations between the Government and the representative bodies.

"They should sit down and work out what would be a fair amount."

But he said that any reasonable person looking at the workload and risks faced by student nurses would not agree that €100 a week was fair reward.

"It is anything but fair. It is a real slap in the face for student nurses and midwives."

Sinn Féin is to bring a motion to the Dáil today to ensure student nurses and midwives receive fair pay "without delay", he added.

Mr Cullinane said there was a staffing crisis in the health service, with more than 6,000 health workers out due to Covid-19.


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