About 200 outsourced nurses working at Gandhi Hospital are boycotting duties from Tuesday, demanding regularisation for nurses who have been working with the hospital for more than 15 years.
The nurses say that though this is not the right time to boycott duties, they were left with no choice because representations to the hospital authorities did not yield any results.
“We know that this is not the right time to boycott our duties, when our services are most needed. But we were left with no choice because our representations and requests to the hospital authorities have not yielded any results for a long time,” said Lakshmi, one of outsourced nurses who is boycotting her duty at the COVID-19 ward.
The nurses say that most of the government nurses at Gandhi Hospital are retired while the rest are older and have diabetes and other health issues. Due to this, the outsourced nurses say they are being pushed to do all the work in the COVID-19 wards.
“We’re not able to drink even water for long hours and feel suffocated in the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. We’re even restricted from using toilets as head nurses are asking us to maintain as much distance as possible since we work in the COVID-19 wards,” added Lakshmi.
Earlier it was only the 7th and 8th floors of the main building at Gandhi Hospital that housed COVID-19 patients. Now the entire building accommodates only COVID-19 patients. And the nurses say they are given only one PPE kit to wear every day.
The situation is only getting worse day by day, if 5 patients are being discharged, then 45 patients are being admitted every day while results for almost 900 cases are pending, revealed a frustrated nurse on condition of anonymity.
On the other hand, the nurses face discrimination at their homes and in their colonies as well.
“There are pregnant women and lactating mothers among us, and at home mothers are not being allowed to even breast-feed infant babies. Many of us are asked to sleep either on the terrace or in a separate room,” another nurse said.
The outsourced nurses also say that their salaries are meagre and not commensurate with their duties.
“Bearing all this we continue to work in the hospital only to take Rs 15,000 salary per month. There is no recognition of our work or efforts at all. And complaints from family members only continue to increase,” Lakshmi lamented.
“Even the doctors and head nurses instruct us to do all the work. We are the ones counselling patients if they’re not eating or if they are depressed. We are not scared of treating them, but we lack any kind of recognition,” added the nurse.
When TNM spoke to Gandhi Hospital Superintendent P Shravan Kumar, he said that the nurses have no right to boycott duties in the time of a crisis, when the Epidemic Diseases Act is in place.
“Anyway we will write to the government with the names of the nurses who are absent for duties. The government will give notification for new nurses to join. The nurses don’t seem to understand the fact that their jobs are temporary and that they can’t go to strike during an epidemic. Either they have to join or they will lose their jobs,” Shravan Kumar said.
On the other hand, the nurses continue to boycott duties. “Our services should be recognised, we demand that the government take a decision in this regard immediately. They should regularise our services and increase our salaries,” the nurses said.