HSE criticised for failing to clarify non-payment of student allowances


Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes has rebuked the HSE for failing to clarify the non-payment of allowances to third-year DIT biomedical science students.

He was responding to Labour TD Joanna Tuffy, who was raising the issue on behalf of current and former DIT biomedical students who were due a monthly training allowance while on placement in public health service laboratories.

Mr Hayes said Ms Tuffy had made a compelling case that cut through the verbiage one regularly heard on such matters. “The HSE needs to get its act together because, clearly, there is a disparity in the payments issued by the various colleges and hospitals,” he added.

He said the Department of Health had emphasised to the HSE the need to resolve the issue in the light of the fact that Ms Tuffy had previously raised it in a parliamentary question last year.

“The fact that it has taken this long to come up with a convincing argument on payments dating back to 1981 suggests a certain inadequacy of decision-making, if that is not too bold a comment to make,” he added.

He said it was not good enough that Ms Tuffy should still be waiting for a concrete answer despite raising the issue last year.

Ms Tuffy said payment of the allowance had been stopped three years ago on the grounds of HSE cutbacks, although students of similar courses elsewhere had received it.

It was worth noting, she said, that the Department of Health document on new entrants and consolidated salary scales, effective from January 1st last year, had stated that the third-year student medical scientist monthly training allowance was €813.58.

Mr Hayes, who was replying on behalf of Minister for Health James Reilly, said that arrangements for a payment to student medical scientists undertaking clinical placement in hospitals were put in place in the 1980s.

He understood that, primarily on cost grounds, in recent years a number of hospitals in the Dublin area discontinued the payment.

He said the HSE was examining the issue to determine which hospitals were involved and the number of students affected. “This process will be concluded shortly. It will then inform a decision relating to future payment of this allowance in the hospitals concerned.”

Mr Hayes said it would not be appropriate for the Minister or himself to prejudge the outcome of the process.