Tuesday 19 September, 2017

Nursing students protest for outstanding stipends

Nursing students are calling on the Ministry of Education to pay outstanding stipends that have not been paid since July 2016.

The frustrated students staged a protest on Tuesday morning outside the Ministry's St Vincent Street, Port of Spain headquarters, calling for answers from Education Minister Anthony Garcia.

Led by President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nursing Association (TTRNA) Idi Stewart, the students demanded a meeting with Garcia to discuss their concerns.

Stewart said Garcia has refused to meet with the union and all efforts to communicate with him have been ignored.

He said the student nurses depend on their $800 a month stipend for travelling and studying expenses. 

He said this was a small amount considering the duties student nurses perform.

Some 500 students are affected, he noted.

"Student nurses have to work on the wards, they have to go to clinics, they have to go to hospitals. They are unlike any other students. They require that stipend. The students play an important part in nursing due to the fact that there is a crisis in the nursing fraternity. There are not enough nurses. It is the students who have to take up the slack," he said.

"The health system is already in crisis. There is already a great shortage in the RHAs. The nurses rely on the students to support them. If it were not for the students, the entire health system would collapse."

Stewart said the stipends have not been increased in more than twenty years but the students were not asking for an increase. He said they simply want the outstanding payments to be made.

He added that the students were prepared to protest at the Ministry every week until the payments are made.

"We want a response by tomorrow otherwise we will be back out again next week. We will be continuously coming out here and if it means calling out the nurses to support the students then we will have to do that."

Stewart called on Garcia to explain whether the stipends to student nurses were being discontinued altogether.

"We actually heard through the grapevine that they are looking to stop the stipends. So all incoming nursing students will no longer have the luxury of this mammoth amount of $800 to help them with their books and travelling from hospitals to health centres."