Kerala Nurses evacuated from strife-torn Yemen have approached the state government seeking their rehabilitation. Backed by Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), the Indian Nurses Parents Association has submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in this regard.
According to Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) Department, of the 4,000-odd Indians evacuated from Yemen, 2,400 belong to Kerala. Among them, at least 1000 are nurses from Kerala. These nurses join community of returnees from other two war zones, Iraq and Libya.
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NORKA chief executive officer C R Kannan said rehabilitation of nurses returned from Yemen, Libya and Iraq is a tough job for the government on many grounds. “Most of the nurses who returned from Libya and Iraq had only General Nursing and Midwifery course. Currently, hospitals prefer nursing graduates (with BSc Nursing). The nurses who worked abroad are not ready to work for lower pay in Kerala hospitals,’’ said Kannan.
He said for the 1000-odd nurses returned from Iraq and Libya, NORKA had arranged a special recruitment drive in which four hospitals from Middle East participated. Of the 600 nurses attended the screening test, 350 have been shortlisted. They would be initially recruited as patient assistant, but would be absorbed as nurses if they meet required criteria. Prior to that, another batch of 40 nurses, mainly those returned from Iraq, have been recruited by NMS Health Care Group for Gulf, said the NORKA CEO.
SUCI leader Mini K Philip said nurses’ vacancies exist in Kerala’s government and public health sectors. “Nurses are reluctant to join the private hospitals because of the meager salary they offer. Irrespective of the nurses’ experience, most of the hospitals are still paying them in the range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. A government-assigned commission had recommended that the nurses be paid allowance for overtime duty. But, the hospitals are reluctant to pay such allowances. The government should bring in a legislation regarding the service and salary conditions of the nurses,’’ said Philip.
She said the government hospitals in Kerala had a staff pattern fixed several decades back. If the pattern is revised factoring in the changes in the health sector, new posts could be created.
United Nurses Association president Jasmin Shah, who had led nurses’ agitations in Kerala hospitals in 2012, said financial constraints back home are still forcing nurses to fly to war zones.
He said Kerala nurses are still working in Libya and Yemen. A section of them do not want to come back because of the huge financial liability, including the educational loans. Recently, a few batches of nurses had gone to Syria and Iraq despite the volatile situation in those countries, Shah said.
NORKA CEO C R Kannan said the state government is often getting distress calls from nurses working in Libya. Many have complained they don’t have salary for several months and their certificates/documents withheld at hospitals. We have limited options in many cases other than alerting the External Affairs Department, he said.