Dáil Éireann - Volume 541 - 09 October, 2001

Written Answers. - Nursing Education.

278. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason student nurses in Galway Regional Hospital receive a weekly meal allowance of £48 while student nurses in GMIT, Castlebar, County Mayo, receive £23; and the rate of meal allowance paid in all other training institutions. [22719/01]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The guidelines governing the recruitment and selection of students for the nursing registration-diploma programme provide that meals will be available to students on a seven day per week basis without charge in designated health board-hospital restaurant(s). Under the previous apprenticeship training programme, first year student nurses were provided with meals and accommodation; therefore, there was funding in the health board-hospital base allocations to meet part of the costs of providing meals to the students on the nursing registration-diploma programmes. Prior to the commencement of the diploma programmes the health boards-hospitals agreed to meet the remainder of the costs themselves.

The integrated school of general and psychiatric nursing at Castlebar was established last year. Since Castlebar was a greenfield site in terms of nursing training, there was no funding in the hospital base to meet the cost of providing meals. My Department entered into negotiations with the Western Health Board and agreed to provide £1,000 – 1,269.74 – per student per annum to be paid to the students in lieu of meals. A similar funding arrangement was put in place at Tralee General Hospital and at St. Brigid's Hospital, Ardee, County Louth, both of which also commenced the nursing diploma programme in 2000. Funding for meals has also been provided for St. Michael's Hospital, Dún Laoghaire which commenced the nursing diploma programme in 2001.

I understand that some of the schools of nursing have entered into a local arrangement to provide a cash or voucher alternative to the provision of meals within their existing resources. My Department has no objection to such arrangements provided that the agreement of the nursing students and the relevant nursing unions is obtained.

The Western Health Board recently decided to pay nursing students at University College Galway Hospital a meal allowance because it was not in a position to provide them with meals due to building works at the hospital. The health board has informed my Department that this is an exceptional temporary measure as a result of the closure of the canteen facilities. The nursing [1206] students in the University College Galway Hospital will revert to the usual situation of free meals in the canteen facilities as soon as the building works are completed.