Nearly 200 nursing staff working on contract at the Gandhi General Hospital in Hyderabad, Telangana’s nodal centre for treatment of Covid-19 cases, sat on an indefinite strike Saturday morning in support of regularisation of their services and payment on par with newly recruited outsourcing nursing staff.
The strike comes barely a month after junior doctors at the hospital had staged a protest seeking decentralisation of Covid-19 treatment, immediate recruitment of additional staff, and enhanced security for all frontline workers.
A few contractual nurses, who stepped out on the road outside the hospital campus as media was not allowed inside, said they never receive their salaries on time and that a few months’ payment remains pending.
#Telangana nurses from Gandhi hospital stage protest demanding regularisation of their contractual jobs and enhancement of salaries. @IndianExpress 220 nurses are on strike starting today pic.twitter.com/svAuYdiRfN
— Rahul V Pisharody (@rahulvpisharody) July 11, 2020
The nurses had met with the director of medical education (DME), Dr. K Ramesh Reddy, Friday and submitted a representation addressed to health minister Eatala Rajender. In the letter, they said a total of 200 staff were working since 2007 on a contract and were paid Rs 15,000 per month after deductions. Having put themselves on the front line in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, many among them were already infected with the virus as they requested the minister to regularise their services. Follow Telangana, Andhra Pradesh Coronavirus Live Updates
“Those nursing staff recruited recently are being paid Rs 25,000 to Rs 28,000 whereas we have been working for the last 13 years with a take-home salary of Rs 15,000,” said Megha Bellapurla, the president of outsourcing nursing staff association at Gandhi hospital.
According to her, nearly 80 of them were detained by police and shifted to Amberpet and Sultanbazaar police stations after they squatted outside the DME’s office Friday afternoon. “The DME responded that the file about our salaries is yet to move and that the chief minister would have to decide on the issue,” she told indianexpress.com.
The demand for regularisation of their contracts and payment of basic minimum salaries, says A Dhanalakshmi, has been long pending.
With the latest round of fresh recruitment in Gandhi hospital and for the newly conceptualised Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS), they have been forced to go on strike, she said.
As of July 10, Telangana has 32,224 positive cases of Covid-19, of which 12,680 are active and under treatment. According to the health department, only 1618 of the 17,081 Covid-19 beds are occupied at the moment.
In Gandhi hospital, 125 patients are in ICU, 319 patients are on CPAP, and 359 admitted in Covid-19 wards. Here too, 1087 of the 1890 beds are vacant, according to the daily medical bulletin issued on July 10. So far, 339 persons have succumbed to the disease in Telangana.
In the absence of protesting outsourcing nurses, 200 regular nurses and 150 newly recruited Covid-19 staff are on nursing duties at the Gandhi hospital.
“Our personal lives are in disarray. We are unable to pay our rents. Our salaries are kept on hold for three to seven months and are never released on time. Our earnest sacrifices during the pandemic are going unnoticed and unrewarded,” pointed out M Sarala, who noted that nurses like her are most worried about going back home every day after duty.
Indira, another nurse on protest, urged the state government to issue a fresh government order to absorb all existing contractual nurses to fill existing vacancies. “Why can’t the government acknowledge our sacrifices and restore dignity in our lives,” he asked.
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