Student nurses to receive €100 per week payment for hospital placement from next week

INMO president tells Health Minister nurses are ‘not looking for a pat on the back or a kind word’

Student nurses are to receive a special €100 per week payment for their period on placements in hospitals during the pandemic backdated to last September, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

Addressing the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on Friday, he said payment of the €100 per week grant, which was recommended by a review late last year, would commence from next week.

“ I accepted all of the recommendations (of the review), and also decided that this placement grant be backdated to September 2020. My Department has instructed the HSE to process this payment, and I have confirmation that payments will begin from next week. Importantly, the HSE has said they would be completed by the 1st of June.”

The INMO believes that the majority of student nurses would have worked for at least eight weeks on placement over recent months but in some cases students could have been on placement for between 12 and 15 weeks. The total cost of the payments is expected to be some €5 million.

Mr Donnelly also told the conference the Government would in the future take steps to “recognise” the work of nurses and other frontline workers during the pandemic.

"I am very conscious of the need to demonstrate the gratitude of my Department, the Government and of the country to all of those who have worked on the frontlines of healthcare during the pandemic. After a very long 15 months, this pandemic is still ongoing, particularly as we are all so acutely aware, from an international context. But I am hopeful that the darkest days here in Ireland have passed. I am hopeful that within a few months our vaccine rollout, in addition to the many public health measures, will bring us to a place where we will be able to look back at the pandemic, take stock of frontline workers' huge contributions, and put in place appropriate measures to recognise these. "

The INMO conference unanimously passed an emergency motion condemning the Government for failing to respond to its claim for additional leave which was lodged last November.

INMO president Karen McGowan, replying to the Minister said when nurses maintained they were seeking recognition,they were “not looking for a pat on the back or a kind word”.

“We are seeking tangible compensation for the burden we have been asked to bear. Since November, we have sought 10 days of special, compensatory leave for ourselves and other frontline healthcare workers.”

“This leave is not only morally just, given the past year. It is also practically necessary. Leave would give us time to recuperate, rest and ready ourselves for work in a post-Covid world.

“The alternative, I fear, is burnout, resignation, and depletion of the nursing and midwifery workforces.”

Delegate Michael Whyte who proposed the motion said INMO members had endured since the onset of the pandemic hazardous working conditions, extraordinarily swift roster changes, cancellation of annual leave, redeployment and reassignment within and across the public health service and to the private nursing home sector, regularly working beyond their shifts and missing breaks and working while wearing (personal protective equipment) PPE over long hours.

He said nurses also experienced the highest level of exposure to Covid 19 in their workplace.

“Words are not enough”, he said.

Mr Donnelly said that the nursing and midwifery workforce had now grown to about 41,000.

“In the twelve months to March 2021 alone, almost 8,000 more staff have been added to the public health service. This includes over 2,000 more nurses and midwives”, he said.