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10 Covid-related deaths as Minister lobbied to add medical students to £2,000 bonus scheme

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There were 10 further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health today (Saturday).

Today’s stats – according to the official dashboard – take in the last 24 hours with eight of the 10 passing away inside that period.

The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 1,985.

Of those deaths, the ABC Borough accounts for 263 – up two; Newry, Mourne and Down District 153 – up one – and Mid-Ulster with 181 – no change.

There were a further 303 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 67 in  Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – the highest in NI. There was a further 29 in Newry, Mourne and Down and 41 in Mid-Ulster.

A total of 1,883 individuals were tested.

There are 470 – down 18 – people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 59 – up one from Friday – of whom are in intensive care units.

There are currently 34 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.

A total of 140 – a decrease of five – Covid patients are currently in hospitals in the Southern Trust area with 85 in Craigavon; 25 in Daisy Hill; 30 in Lurgan; none in South Tyrone; and seven in St Luke’s.

Saturday’s figures come as Health Minister Robin Swann is being urged to include medical students in a new financial support scheme.

Following the recent announcement that the Department for Health will be making a one-off £2,000 payment to students who are on clinical placement during the Covid-19 pandemic, Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has urged Minister Swann to include medical students in this payment as they are currently excluded.

The Newry and Armagh representative has confirmed she has written to the Minister this week.

She said: “The announcement by the Health Minister has been very welcome and it is something I personally have campaigned for on behalf of health care students on placement, but it must not discriminate against any students.

“The eligibility criteria that has been published by the Health Minister has illogically excluded medical students and this is not acceptable.

“Over the last number of weeks I have been engaging with hundreds of students from across my constituency and further afield and have been working hard to ensure they are not being left behind during this pandemic and are being treated equally.

“A high proportion of medical students do not enjoy the same financial support that most other students have access to, and in most cases have to finance their studies without a bursary or loan, therefore it is absolutely ludicrous that this has failed to be acknowledged by the Health Minister when drawing up this scheme.

“We are constantly being told that the Health Trusts have difficulties recruiting and retaining doctors, and when we see something like this, I can totally understand why newly qualified doctors choose to go elsewhere for employment.

“I have written to the Health Minister and asked him to urgently review the criteria for this payment and ensure all health and social care professions on placement in the health service are given a level playing field and are able to access this much needed payment to alleviate the significant financial difficulties they are facing at this time.”

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