Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has called on the Government to end the exploitation of student nurses and midwives who have been expected to fill gaps in our chronically under-funded health service during the pandemic.
Speaking in support of a motion on the issue from Solidarity-People Before Profit today, Deputy Shortall said:
“It should bring shame upon the minister and the Government that our student nurses and midwives are being exploited for cheap labour under the current clinical placement scheme.
“Nursing and midwifery students have done extraordinary work well above and beyond their remit during the pandemic. The essential role they are filling deserves to be recognised with fair pay this year, next year and every year to come.
“Chronic understaffing in our health service has made this the reality for some time now, but it has been intensified this year. Over 16% of Covid-19 cases have been among healthcare workers. The nature of their work has placed them at increased risk and has led to higher than normal absences from clinical settings – with students expected to fill these gaps.
“This has been a glaring issue for many years now, but the severe additional pressure placed on student nurses and midwives during the pandemic has brought it even more to the fore and has rightly led to a full public outcry.
“The fact of the matter is that essential work is expected of students in clinical placements, for which they are not duly compensated. The issue boils down to cheap, exploited labour filling essential work.
“Student nurses and midwives work on average 15 weeks per year for the first three years of their degree. The students who are lucky enough to receive a clinical placement allowance get a meagre €50.79 per week, while others receive nothing in compensation.
“Even the €50 per week is nowhere near enough to cover the costs of transport to attend a placement, let alone tuition fees, accommodation or living expenses. In their final year, these students will complete 36-week internships as rostered staff members and will be paid €15,056 – well below minimum wage.
“The Minister for Health has defended the status quo, justifying students’ lack of pay because it is part of their education. However, it is clear from students’ first-hand experiences that this is not a purely academic exercise and they are filling critical roles in our health service.
“I urge the minister to engage with student nurses and midwives and correct this longstanding inequality.”
December 2, 2020