At least eight nurses have resigned from Bhatia hospital in the last fortnight, and there is no trace of two others. Over the last two months, 40 nurses from Wockhardt hospital have resigned, 14 nurses quit their jobs at Kaslekar hospital, several in Lilavati hospital resigned to join BMC services and six nurses at Hinduja hospital in Khar have said they want to return home to Kerela, with two already stopped reporting to work.
After private hospitals complained that they were struggling to retain nursing staff, the state government on Thursday invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA), 2005, directing healthcare workers to “extend whole-hearted cooperation” and continue services.
With the notification warning of action against healthcare workers if they do not cooperate, several nurses, who were planning to leave Mumbai, said they were trying to reach out to the government to understand the implications of MESMA.
“The government is putting pressure on healthcare workers without giving facilities. We have informed it about our problems but did not receive an encouraging response,” said T C Jibin, state president of United Nurses Association. “Private hospitals need to engage with nurses who want to return home and sort their issues. Nurses are not scared of coronavirus if they are provided proper safeguards. Nurses in other states have not left. We are only hearing this in Maharashtra and West Bengal,” he added.
The association has demanded that government must frame guidelines to fix duty time, quarantine protocol and testing facility for healthcare workers.
In Breach Candy hospital, a nurse said, “We have to wear personal protective equipment for 12 hours. It is very difficult to work like that for a long duration.”
While nurses have complained of poor safety measures, private hospitals have said they are offering financial incentives, transportation and accommodation to encourage nurses to show up for work.
In Bhatia hospital, medical director Dr R B Dastur said they have been engaging with the nursing staff, and have assured them higher salaries and transportation to work, but still many have left. The hospital had over 51 infected staffers in April, forcing it to briefly shut services. Since then, eight nurses have resigned and two left without notice.
The hospital planned to temporarily shift nurses from a nearby closed nursing home to their hospital. “But even that didn’t work out, that nursing home is now reopening, so they can’t offer us nurses,” an official said.
Hinduja hospital in Khar, which is running on less than 70 per cent staff strength, has begun the process of recruiting nurses through telephonic interviews. It has already recruited two nurses this way. “A few nurses have informed us they want to go home. There are several issues… some nurses are in quarantine, some have no means to reach the hospital. We have arranged buses from Kalyan and Vasai for them,” said Dr Avinash Supe, medical director.
To solve issue of housing and transport, BMC has assured that it will provide staff quarters in guesthouses and lodges near private hospitals, and that the state is planning to restart local trains.
Till now, while at least 100 nurses have left several hospitals in Pune, around 100 have left Mumbai for Kerela. Nurse Sujata Pawar, from Amravati, said are also concerns with government recruitments. “The Directorate of Medical Education and Research has appointed over 1,000 permanent nurses but they are yet to receive appointment orders. They are waiting to join service. Also, while nurses have been appointed on contractual basis by BMC, there is no clarity if after the Covid-19 pandemic ends, they would still have jobs,” Pawar said.