Nursing Trainees Forced into Voluntary Work?

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Malta Health Students’ Association (MHSA) published a press release yesterday afternoon regarding the action taken by the organisation on the issue of payments of summer placements. MHSA has contacted the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Hon. Chris Fearne, following the lack of support received from the Faculty of Health Sciences. Hon. Chris Fearne is investigating the issue.

In her email, Kaitlyn Byrne, MHSA’s president, explained that both students following a Diploma in Nursing and those following the BSc degree in Nursing were notified on the last day of their placement period that they will not be receiving any form of payment for the month of July, as this month is covered by University stipends. This means that students following the Diploma course will be paid 57 cents per hour, while those following the Degree course will receive around 1 Euro per hour. On the other hand, Physiotherapy students, who will also not be paid for summer placements, were informed before starting the placement period.

Ms Byrne underlined the fact that students have, in the previous years, always been paid for both months of summer placements. MHSA’s President pointed out the irony of the situation: the same entity that has made efforts to increase the number of students enrolling for the course has made a decision that will definitely push students away.

MHSA also informed the Minister of Health that it is keeping students from taking any form of drastic action. However, should the issue fail to be solved in a civil manner, the students cannot not be held idle.

Malta Today was the first to announce that the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) has condemned the University’s decision not to pay nursing students. The MUMN also pointed out that these students work “a substantial amount of placement hours … as part of the normal completion of their studies”. The union also claimed that such action will have serious repercussions, and that this is “abuse on the nursing students”. The story was soon picked up by other news rooms.

MHSA approached Insite and said, as reiterated in their Press Release, “since MHSA is the only senate-recognised organisation representing students from the Faculty of Health Science, it is our job to handle such cases, as we have been doing from the moment the problem arose on the 28th of July.” They went on to say that, “whilst MHSA respects and appreciates the incentives brought up by the Malta Union for Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) regarding this issue and the students’ concerns, MHSA would have also been grateful to have received proper reference to its advances on the subject.”

Insite Malta also released an article, written by Matthew Debattista on the issue in the beginning of August. The article mentioned that this is not the first time that Health science students were told that they will not get paid or fully paid for summer placements. In 2015, they were notified they will not get paid for these placements, however, thanks to the hard work and commitment of MHSA and KSU, they had not only managed to receive the payment, but they received the payment with an increase in the hourly rate. KSU and MHSA are working together to solve the issue.

Screenshots of e-mail sent to Hon. Chris Fearne by MHSA President Kaitlyn Byrne:

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