Student nurses on hospital placements are expected to receive a new weekly €100 ‘Pandemic Placement Payment’ as recommended under a review commissioned by the Department of Health. The Review carried out by Professor Tom Collins follows allegations of workplace exploitation of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 4,500 students are expected to benefit from the payment as of January 2021 and it is scheduled to remain in place until the end of the pandemic. Official departmental estimates place the scheme’s costs at €5.4m a year if Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly adheres to the Review’s recommendation that the payment be backdated to September. If implemented now until the end of June it will cost €3m.

Students will be able to claim the payment alongside pre-existing entitlements, such as the €50 allowance towards travel/accommodation costs and those already eligible for the ‘Pandemic Unemployment Benefit’ (PUP) and SUSI grants. However, not all students are entitled to the €50 allowance as it is dependent on individual commutes to placement. 

The Payment has been criticised by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) as being “too little, too late for students”. INMO student representatives claim the payment does not reflect the now heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 nor the increased workload they will be expected to carry out in the coming months. Instead, they have called upon the Government to pay students a healthcare assistant wages (€11.93 an hour) as was organised earlier in the pandemic emergency response. 

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha has labelled the Review “obsolete” and a “deep disappointment” which “no longer reflects the risk or work that students will be taking on in the coming weeks”. She further added that, “It’s time for the minister to do the right thing. He should pay students the healthcare assistant rate of pay – something which was done earlier in the pandemic. This would better reflect the work and risks students are undertaking in Covid-intensive hospitals”.

Rowan Kelleher – Assistant News Editor