Trudy Simpson, Staff Reporter
STUDENTS AT the Kingston School of Nursing will continue to receive stipends despite Government's decision to stop payments to other nursing students. The Ministry of Health said it would continue to honour promises of stipends, which were made in error by the Kingston School of Nursing in its offer letter to students selected for the September 2002 training programme.
In February, first-year students at the school wrote to the Ministry of Health to ask why they were not receiving their stipends while offer letters indicated they should. They met on Monday with Grace Allen-Young, the Ministry's Permanent Secretary, to discuss the matter.
OBLIGATION TO HONOUR
"The Ministry... recognises that given the commitment made in the offer letter, which was accepted by the students, it has an obligation to honour the contents of the offer made in error by the Kingston School of Nursing," it said in response to questions from The Gleaner.
The Ministry said it planned to "pursue the option of reducing the bonding period of five years commensurate with the value of the stipend", but that the matter is to be referred to the Ministry of Finance which has final authority in issues of bonding.
"Students may opt to accept a reduction in the bonding period in place of accepting payment of the stipend," the Ministry said.
However, it was not clear whether the Health Ministry would do the same for students attending other nursing schools, who do not have this option, but who are feeling the economic pinch.
Among them is a student at Excelsior Community College, who told The Gleaner that she is "living by faith" to find the means for her to pay small expenses next month.
The nursing student said she always wanted to be a nurse but now in the second year of her studies, she was worried as she no longer receives the $5,400 monthly stipend that used to help her balance her budget.
Government will still provide free tuition and uniform material to all students and housing and transportation to selected clinical areas for resident students, but the removal of stipends has left students deeply disappointed and wondering where money will be coming from next month, especially those who have to travel to and from Kingston to school.
"For most of us, it has made a difference. Generally, it's for travelling and lunch and without that, we are begging and borrowing. For me, I have exhausted all my resources," she lamented.