Opposition warns newly qualified nurses will emigrate due to way they are treated

Leo Varadkar confirms 12.5% pay rise for final-year student nurses during internships

Protesters attend a rally for student nurses and midwives outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Protesters attend a rally for student nurses and midwives outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Amid the news that the Government is to boost the pay of final-year student nurses during their internship in hospitals, the Opposition has warned that newly qualified nursing staff will emigrate as soon as they get the opportunity because of the lack of respect with which they are treated.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed on Tuesday that student nurses in their fourth year will receive an increase of 12.5 per cent in their pay for their internship.

He also said that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly planned to continue paying a separate €100 per week pandemic placement grant for student nurses.

Student nurses protested outside Leinster House on Tuesday at what they maintained was unfair treatment in the health service and at a delay in publishing a review of their payments and allowances.

Details of the Government’s latest plans for student nurse payments were revealed in The Irish Times on Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar said: “I am advised the Minister for Health will outline his plans regarding the report [on payments for student nurses, known as the McHugh report] shortly, and these plans include a 12.5 per cent increase in payments to student nurses and midwives in their internship year and a continuation of the pandemic placement grant. Payments may be required to be backdated to October.”

Sinn Féin response

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane said the students wanted very much to work in the Irish health service but were so badly treated that they would leave the country as soon as they qualified.

He said there had been meetings between healthcare trade unions and the HSE regarding payments for student nurses but they had had to read details of the Government’s plans in The Irish Times.

Mr Varadkar said there would be further engagement between the Minister and the HSE and trade unions.

“The proposals being made in the report provide for a 12.5 per cent increase in the payment to student nurses and student midwives in their internship year and the continuation of the pandemic placement grant, recognising that the pandemic is ongoing. This may need to involve some back payments also.

“It is worth pointing out the only healthcare students paid salaries are student nurses and midwives in their fourth year. They are paid between €21,000 and €22,000 on an annualised basis.”

‘Sleep deprived’

Student nurses who protested at Leinster House said they were being left “sleep deprived” from having to work part-time jobs alongside their placements in hospitals, in order to afford accommodation and the cost of college.

More than 100 student nurses and midwives attended the protest.

Tiffany O’Reardon (20) from Co Tipperary, a second-year general nursing student in Trinity College Dublin, also works part-time in a restaurant.

“I am sick of going to placement and going straight to work afterwards, constantly, every day, and being so tired and so sleep deprived,” she said.

“So I’d be up at 6.30am for placement . . . so I’d be in there from 7.30am to 3.30pm, and straight from there to work every day, until 7-8pm,” she said. “You’re constantly wrecked, the days you have off you spend sleeping,” she added.

The INMO said it was awaiting publication of the full McHugh report.

Peter Hughes, general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said it was inexcusable that the completed review had not been published, and more importantly that student nurses who have made an enormous contribution to the health services were not receiving allowances that reflect the reality of their contribution.