Yesterday I raised with the Taoiseach the refusal of his Government to pay student nurses and midwives who have been working on the front line during this awful pandemic. I told the Taoiseach of the real anger and frustration felt by these students over the outrageous claim that they do not get paid because they do not do real work. I conveyed to the Taoiseach, in their own words, the very real work that student nurses and midwives do. The testimonies I read yesterday show that not only do student nurses and midwives do real work, they do the hardest work. They treat the sick and injured, often in the most difficult circumstances in understaffed and overcrowded hospitals. They are often on their feet for 13-hour days, rushing around performing their tasks with professionalism and compassion.
Over the last eight months, student nurses and midwives have worked incredibly hard in the battle against Covid-19 and the Taoiseach should remember that these students have stepped into the breach and it was the Government that asked them to do so. They have put their health and safety at risk, given up paid work which would pay their bills due to the risk of cross-infection. They have literally held the hands of dying Covid patients as they took their last breath, when their own family members could not be with them. Not alone is this real work and hard work, this is heroic work. Student nurses and midwives have plugged the gaps created by decades of bad health policy from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They have been the glue that has held our already strained health service together during the greatest public health emergency in a century. Their dedication and work have saved lives that might have been lost. The public knows this and doctors and nurses working with these students know it; the only people who do not seem to get it is the Government.
I put their personal testimonies to the Taoiseach yesterday in the hope he would finally acknowledge their work and, more importantly, commit to paying them and paying them properly. The Taoiseach refused to do that and gave me some bogus rationale as to why it could not be done. The truth is that these students are on the roster, they are working and they should be paid. Surely the Taoiseach can accept that. As he was refusing to pay these student nurses and midwives, we hear he has delivered pay increases for already well-paid super junior Ministers and judges, along with pension increases for very well-paid former taoisigh. There is no complexity and no review on that front. It seems it is always very straightforward to cough up when it comes to those at the top. Big money for Ministers, judges and the people who once did the Taoiseach's job, but nothing for student nurses and midwives who have given their blood, sweat and tears for the health and safety of our people. This is shameful and it demonstrates once again whose side Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are on. However, the people know who was there for them when it counted and I do not believe they will stand for this awful treatment of student nurses and midwives. The Taoiseach has a decision to make now. Will he finally tell these student nurses and midwives that they will be paid?