Student nurse pay cut to be reviewed
The Government has rowed back on plans to abolish payments to student nurses and midwives during their mandatory 36-week placement in hospitals in their fourth year.
However, it is understood that plans to reduce progressively the level of payments made to student nurses and midwives over the coming years will remain in place.
The Government announced in December that the payment - currently 80 per cent of the minimum point on the staff nurse pay scale - would be reduced on a phased basis until 2014 and abolished completely from January 2015.
In a statement today, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Coughlan said that having considered the issue, there was "a strong argument in favour of retaining some level of payment to student nurses".
She said that she had asked the Secretary General of the Department of Health Michael Scanlan "to review the rationale for the total abolition of clinical placement payments to student nurses".
It is understood that the new review will focus only on the plan to abolish completely the payments from 2015.
Some 3,500 student nurses and midwives took part in demonstrations at 13 hospitals around the country on Wednesday and unions promised to make the cuts in payments a major issue in the general election.
The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Liam Doran said that nurses would not vote for parties that did not give a commitment to reverse the cuts.
Ms Coughlan said: "Unlike the practice in other countries, student nurses in Ireland have been treated as paid employees for part of their education programme while still having the same status as other university students. On the other hand, staff nurses are currently replaced on a two to one ratio by student nurses on clinical placement and these student nurses undertake similar duties and rosters to staff nurses.
"I think there is a need to review the existing clinical placement and replacement ratio arrangements and I believe there may be a case in that context to reinstate some financial reward for student nurses during their clinical placements.
"Accordingly, I have asked the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children to review the rationale for the total abolition of the clinical placement payment to student nurses with a view to retaining some level of payment during this period.
"I intend that a revised proposal will then be brought to Government that will be self-financing and contained within the parameters of my Department's four-year current budget allocation."