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Student nurses motion was 'party politics' designed to make the 'government look bad', says Varadkar

A review on allowances is due by the end of the month.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said the motion on student nurses’ remuneration last week was “party politics” designed to make the “government look bad” and the “opposition look good”.

For the third day in a row, the issue of pay for student nurses was raised in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said student nurses were filling in for nurses during a pandemic, and not being paid. He said they were being “exploited”, and had they not stepped in to fill the gap, the healthcare system would have been collapsed.

Varadkar said the motion last week was non-binding, and would not have resulted in more pay for student nurses. 

His comments come as Health Minister Stephen Donnelly promised a “short and independent review” of student nurses allowances will be completed by the end of the month.

Donnelly said that student nurses and midwives receive allowances, including for accommodation up to €50 per week and a refund of travel expenses.

He said students are paid salaries of €21,000/€22,000 in their fourth year.

“This is an issue the Government is engaging on,” said Varadkar, stating that matters of public pay will be negotiated by the Government and unions, but are not determined by  motions in the Dáil.

He said student nurses are unpaid in year one, two and three, but are given remuneration in their fourth year.

It is a degree course, it is not an apprenticeship, said Varadkar highlighting that training allowance is there for apprenticeships but not college courses. 

However, he said if nurses are acting up – like filling in for a staff nurse – “it is right they should paid”.

Varadkar said Doherty was speaking as if it was a Sinn Féin motion last week, pointing out it was a People Before Profit motion.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the Tánaiste to “stop the spin”.

He said other EU countries such as Germany pay their student nurses throughout their course, and called for the government to do the same.

Donnelly told the Dáil this morning that if representative organisations give their backing for the review, any recommended increase in allowance in relation to Covid-19 would be in place in January.

A second longer-term review of student placements in all years of a nursing degree is also due to take place.

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Separately, government has also instigated a formal review into whether student nurses were being asked to do inappropriate practices while on placement.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said if there are alleged serious breaches they should be investigated.

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