A number of private hospitals are facing shortage of nurses, an issue that the authorities took up at a meeting called by the divisional commissioner’s office on Tuesday. Hospital authorities said some nurses had quit either for better opportunities in Middle East countries or left to join short three-month contract jobs at government medical facilities. They further said some had also stopped reporting to work due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
At Noble hospital in Hadapsar, 80 nurses left in the last two months. An analysis shows that half of them preferred to leave for Middle East countries, while some returned to their native places – mostly Kerala – and others opted for short-term jobs with government hospitals that offered better salaries.
“Traditionally, nurses – mainly from Kerala – prefer to gain experience for two to three years at NABH-accredited (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) hospitals before applying for better opportunities in the Middle East and OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. For us, however, we are already reeling from a shortage of manpower and it is unfortunate that 70 to 80 nurses had to leave in the last two months,” said Dr H K Sale, executive director of Noble hospital, which has treated over 1,000 Covid-19 patients.
Dr Sale added that before a countrywide lockdown was imposed, the hospital had 420 nurses, and was now left with 315.
According to Tritpi Nanda, chief nursing officer at Noble hospital, opportunities have opened up in the Middle East and nurses are getting offer letters immediately after online interviews.
“The analysis also shows that nurses left because of the fear factor (of Covid-19) as their parents asked them to return home. Sometimes, nurses just stopped reporting to work while some opted for short-term government jobs,” Nanda said.
For instance, 25-year-old Annmary Tomy has been working as a staff nurse at the intensive care unit (ICU) of Noble hospital for three and a half years. “I attended an online interview and answered questions on how to care for a ventilated patient or manage a post-op cardiac patient in the ICU. They selected me and have sent an offer letter with a salary of approximately Rs 1 lakh and accommodation. I am required to join Almoosa Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia by the second week of September,” Tomy said.
A 24-year-old staff nurse, also working at the ICU in Noble hospital, said she got an offer letter from a hospital in Oman and is all set to leave next month. “I will go to my hometown in Kollam (Kerala) as I have not met my parents for two years. Also, I will have to stay in quarantine for 14 days, after which I will be free to leave the country,” she said.
“It is a known fact that most junior nurses, mainly from Kerala, who come to the city to get two to three years of experience from NABH-accredited hospitals, scout for better opportunities in the Middle East and at least 20 from each hospital leave every year between May and July. Apart from the panic and fear caused by the Covid-19 crisis, shortage is also being felt as final-year exams of nursing colleges have not been held and a fresh batch has not yet come to hospitals,” said Dr Sanjay Lalwani, medical director of Bharati hospital, who has seen more than 150 nurses leave in the last few months.
At Poona hospital, at least 100 nurses have left ever since Covid-19 cases started rising. The management had to shut down some departments to ensure that other patients are cared for. “One nurse for one ICU patient is just not possible and even if oxygenated beds are provided there is no staff to manage patients. We are short of 80 to 90 nurses,” said Dr J Ravindranath, director of Poona hospital.
Bomi Bhote, president of Hospital Association of Pune, along with several other owners/directors of other hospitals said a central team of officers headed by Kunal Kumar was also present at the meeting with the divisional commissioner, where they spoke about issues faced by hospitals.
“Buildings, beds, and equipment are important but what makes a hospital is the staff strength – doctors, nurses, ward assistants – and there is an increasing shortage as most of those who are in contact with Covid-19 patients have to stay in quarantine for some days and then return to work,” Bhote said, adding that they needed 50 per cent more staff than available now
Bhote added that junior consultants were pitching in, but hospitals were desperately looking for staff.
Dr Anjali Sabne, Assistant Medical Officer, PMC, said 45 trained nurses had joined duty for a period of six months and the approximate salary structure started from Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000. According to Pune Zilla Parishad authorities, at least 150 nurses had been recruited for a period of six months.
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