Cork North Central TD and Fine Gael spokesperson on Health Colm Burke has explained why he voted against a motion calling for student nurses to be paid.
His constituency colleague, Solidarity TD Mick Barry, criticised both Mr Burke and Fianna Fáil Pádraig O’Sullivan for opposing the motion.
“They were all in favour of clapping the nurses in the springtime but they just don't want to pay them now,” he said.
However, Deputy Burke said: “This is the agreed degree programme. Before, student nurses started off in hospitals on day one. Then the nursing unions wanted to turn it into an academic degree course, which they did. The terms of how that course would be run was all agreed with the HSE.
“They’re paid 36 weeks placement in fourth year. This is the agreed programme,” he explained.
Fourth year psychiatric nurses earn the equivalent of what would be €22,000 per annum for their 36 week placement, while the other nurses earn €21,000.
However, some first, second and third year student nurses and midwives receive no pay. Some receive an allowance of just shy of €51 per week.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced on Thursday that student nurses who lost part-time jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic would now be eligible for a backdated Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
The INMO, meanwhile, has gathered almost 30,000 signatures on a petition calling for all final-year interns to be paid the same rate as healthcare assistants, the expansion and increase of the clinical placement allowance for all others, and for the provision of full health and safety protection to all students, including payment if they have to go on Covid-related leave.
Mr Burke said there were “ongoing discussions” about student nurses “to see what changes need to be made into the long term” taking Covid and the challenges that presented into account.
“I’ve not heard Mick Barry make any proposals in relation to enhancing the whole role of nurse practitioner or the way it has changed over the last number of years. It’s grand to say we want more money poured out, but we also have to make sure that we can get a balance.
“I think we have got the balance,” Mr Burke said, “but the issue is not closed”.
Fianna Fáil TD Pádraig O’Sullivan had not responded to a request for comment.