SERVICES AT government hospitals in the capital were affected as nurses began their country-wide strike Friday. The protest has been called by the All India Government Nurses Federation (AIGNF) and the Delhi Nurses Federation seeking redressal of issues related to pay and allowances. The strike comes just as the city is grappling with rising cases of dengue and chikungunya.
As many as 20,000 nurses, employed in government hospitals including those run by the Centre as well as the MCD, joined the strike. The AIGNF claimed that most government nurses joined the agitation, which was “fairly successful”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, AIGNF spokesperson Liladhar Ramchandani said the nurses federation has genuine demands such as increasing the initial pay from Rs 4,600 to 5,400; including risk allowance and non-practice allowance; and rectifying the anomaly in the sixth pay commission.
When asked why the strike has been called during an outbreak of dengue and chikungunya cases, Ramchandani said they had planned two strikes in March and August but decided not to go ahead with them. However, as nothing has changed despite several assurances from the government, they decided to go ahead with the strike.
“The government is not serious at all and they have not kept their promise. As of now, we are attending to emergency and critical cases but will stop that too after 72 hours. If even one of our demands are met, then we will stop protesting for the time being,” said Ramchandani.
He added that, initially, the government too said their demands are genuine. “Now they say that we have to approach the finance department. They also invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act and declared our strike illegal. Many nurses were detained at Parliament Street police station. One of our nurses was even beaten up by police during the protest,” claimed Ramchandani.
According to police, around 402 nurses were detained in the morning. A senior police officer added that they are looking into allegations of an officer slapping a male nurse. Union Health Secretary C K Mishra termed the agitation “unfortunate”.
In Delhi, the strike affected patients as several routine operations in hospitals were cancelled, OPD timings curtailed and emergency services affected. “No routine surgeries have taken place and elective surgeries have been postponed at our hospital. We are managing with interns and contractual nurses as not a single regular nurse is on work. We have been badly affected,” Dr Vikram Bhaskar of Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital told PTI.
At Centre-run Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, authorities said they “managed with medical students (PGIMER), and junior resident doctors to make up for the staff shortage”. Issuing a stern warning, hospital medical superintendent A K Gadpayle, told PTI, “If nurses do not resume work, we may terminate them.”