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Demanding better pay, 200 nurses boycott work at Pune hospital

About 200 nurses at the Jehangir Hospital have not been attending work since Sunday, complaining of low salaries and excessive workload. However, critical care and emergency cases are being attended to.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
July 28, 2020 1:55:17 am
Negotiations to bring about a compromise remained unsuccessful, and by the end of the day, the stands seemed to have hardened. (File/Representational)

The two-day old work-boycott by nurses at one of city’s best known hospitals took a turn for the worse on Monday, with hospital authorities refusing to agree to the demand of a salary hike, and warning that they would recruit newer people.

About 200 nurses at the Jehangir Hospital have not been attending work since Sunday, complaining of low salaries and excessive workload. However, critical care and emergency cases are being attended to.

Negotiations to bring about a compromise remained unsuccessful, and by the end of the day, the stands seemed to have hardened. The hospital admitted that some nurses who were not part of the original agitation on Sunday had also joined the strike.

In a late night statement on Monday, the hospital said it was doing everything to take good care of the nurses, including timely payment of salaries and some special allowances, but that it was not in a position to increase the salaries at this point.

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But the nurses are not relenting. “Aren’t our demands justified, especially after a daily 12-hour work schedule, with no cooling off period or even a Covid allowance. We have been working for a pittance, and nurses in some other hospitals are being paid double the amount. This is just not fair,” said a 50-year-old nurse at the hospital.

The nurses said they were being paid a minimum of Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,000 a month.

“It is all very well to call us Covid warriors. But at a monthly salary of Rs 12,000, it is difficult to make ends meet. My husband is a male nurse at another hospital, and his monthly income is approximately Rs 15,000. Despite our own hardships, we have been attending to Covid patients, but we are overwhelmed with work now,” said another nurse.

Jehangir Hospital currently has about 150 Covid19 patients, 20 of who are admitted in ICUs.

A group of agitating nurses today met district collector Naval Kishore Ram to seek support for their demands.

One nursing association has thrown its weight behind the agitators and written to the hospital, demanding better working conditions.

“We have demanded that their duty hours should not exceed six hours with PPE, and adequate rest should be provided,” Jibin TC, state president of the United Nurses Association said in his letter to the hospital.

Matthew John, joint secretary of the association, told The Indian Express that there was a need to maintain nurse patient ratio as per guidelines set by the Indian Nursing Council. “Nurses have complained that they did not get risk allowance or COVID allowance for working in COVID wards, and that their demands have not been met despite raising these issues time and again with the management,” he said.

The hospital maintained that it was requesting all staff to return to work, and said the agitation was against “the ethos and ethics of the nursing profession”.

“The Management has been very patient and supportive in addressing the issues raised by the nursing staff and on its part has ensured that the salaries are paid on time and special allowance was also announced for the staff working in the COVID19 areas. In addition, special care is taken about their diet, transport, accommodation. Hostel accommodations, as well as the meals are taken care of by the hospital. Also, treatment is offered free of cost not only to the staff but is also extended to their family members who are Covid 19 positive,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, some other hospitals said they were offering some incentives to their nurses to keep them motivated. Sanjay Pathare, medical director of Ruby Hospital, which is just across the road to Jehangir Hospital, said nurses were being given three-day rest after every seven days of work, or a one-week off after two weeks of continuous duty. The hospital has about 1000 nursing staff.

“These are challenging times… Six hour duty charts are being made, and nurses are being assigned in four different shifts,” he said.

Dr Vijay Natarajan, CEO of Symbiosis hospital, too claimed that the nurses were being given adequate rest after long duty hours.

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