A Laois County Councillor has called on the government to abolish the €100 annual registration fee that nurses and midwives must pay to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.
Fine Gael Councillor Aisling Moran made the call, directed at Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, at Monday’s monthly meeting of Laois County Council.
She feels that this would be just a small gesture to make following all of their hard work on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cllr Moran said: “It might surprise you to hear that 18% of Covid cases in Ireland are contracted by healthcare workers.
“Furthermore 10% of all Covid cases in Ireland are nurses – that is over 7,500 nurses infected with this virus.
“People who, because of the increased risk of contracting the virus due to their chosen profession have been unwell and have had to isolate from partners and their children in their own homes. In fact some are still unable to return to work due to the debilitating long term effects of Covid. These people are true heroes.
“So you can imagine my surprise when a constituent contacted me to inform me that he had just received a request from the Nursing and Midwifery Board (NMBI) for €100 – a retention fee so that he can continue to practice as a nurse, to continue to put his own health at risk for the good of others.
“I was unaware that nurses had to pay an annual fee to the NMBI – a statutory body that sets standards in education registration and professional conduct of nurses and midwives.
“In 2020, of all years to ask nurses to pay €100, and to request this payment one month before Christmas!
“In March 2020 we were pleading to all Irish nurses, nationally , and around the globe to “be on call for Ireland”; the following year we ask them to pay €100 for the privilege.
“Did anybody in the NMBI think that maybe this was not the most appropriate time to look for money from an already stressed profession?
“These nurses do not have the choice to work from the safety of their own homes. Some have to take public transport to get to work, increasing their risk of contracting Covid, as well as their stress levels; and on top of all of that, they are at a significantly higher risk than any other profession, in their places of work.
“Did anyone in the Department of Health think ‘perhaps the government should consider why a retention fee should be paid by the nurse, and not the employer’.
“We have 78,000 registered nurses working in the health care sector in Ireland. That is 7.8 million that these nurses are expected to pay out of their own pockets to the NMBI.
“The Department of Health has received €17.4 billion in 2020, with an extra €4 billion added to the budget in 2021.
“To pay nurses retention fee this year would only amount to under 0.2% of the extra 4 billion given to healthcare and under 0.04% of the total budget.
“A round of applause is a lovely gesture, but unfortunately that’s all it is.
“Let’s show our appreciation to these wonderful people, by the government covering or waiving this cost for 2020 and going forward that this fee to the governing body of nurses and midwives, the NMBI, be paid directly by the Department of Health or by the hospital employing the nurse.
“Unless you’re self employed the governing should be the responsibility of the employer and not the employee.”
Cllr Moran’s motion received widespread support and it was agreed that Laois County Council would write to Minister for Health Donnelly on the issue.