Union dismissive as FF outlines student nurse pay review plan


HEALTH:FIANNA FÁIL has said the overall nursing budget will have to be reduced even if some form of payment is to be retained for student nurses during their placement period in hospitals.

Fianna Fáil last night gave more details of a planned review of the Government’s decision to phase out and ultimately eliminate the payments for student nurses and midwives during their 36-week placement on hospital wards.

This review was first announced by Minister for Health Mary Coughlan.

The statement followed a meeting between Fianna Fáil Minister of State for Health Barry Andrews and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Earlier this week about 3,000 student nurses protested outside the Department of Health. Union leaders urged nurses to “punish” any party that did not pledge to reverse the cuts in the election.

Fianna Fáil said it recognised the contribution student nurses made to the health service. It said it was regrettable that there had been no consultation in advance of the decision to cut the payments.

“The review of the payment, initiated by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, will consider how the nursing budget can be reduced, while maintaining the principle of payment to student nurses.”

Fianna Fáil said the terms of the payments to student nurses introduced in 2002 – under which they receive 80 per cent of the minimum point of the staff nurse pay scale while on clinical work placement during their fourth year – were made in different economic circumstances.

“Staff nurses’ pay has increased since then; albeit we are aware that some of the gains have been eroded over the past two years. Our public finances have shrunk and all sectors have experienced cuts,” the statement read.

“Fianna Fáil believes that a review should be undertaken, which includes the principle of payment taking into account present economic circumstances. This review should also examine the staff nurse to student nurse ratio.”

A party spokesman said that payment by the Department of Education of more than €11,000 to colleges for the fourth year of the student nurses’ course could also be on the table as part of a review.

The INMO described the statement as “wholly disappointing”.

Its general secretary Liam Doran said the union was not in the business of trading one cut for another. He said the statement bordered on “adding insult to injury”.

Fine Gael has told nursing unions it would urgently review the Government’s decision if in office.

The INMO said the Green Party had also said it would review the move while Sinn Féin said it would reverse it. The union said it was awaiting a formal response from Labour.

Meanwhile, Department of Finance documents suggest the Government decision to phase out the student nurse payments was taken on December 2nd, a number of weeks before it was announced just before Christmas.