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Caught speaking Malayalam,Apollo nurses asked to resign

Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals on Monday asked two nurses to submit their resignations for speaking in their “native tongue” inside the hospital premises.

Written by Vidya Krishnan | New Delhi |
May 26, 2009 5:40:44 pm

Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals on Monday asked two nurses to submit their resignations for speaking in their “native tongue” inside the hospital premises.

The nurses,Jincy Joseph and Lijy Menon (names changed to protect identity) were posted in ICU of the Cardio Thoracic Vascular Surgery (CTVS) department. The two said they will take their case to the National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday,challenging the hospital’s decision.

Menon said they arrived for the afternoon shift at 1.45 pm. “We greeted each other in the lift lobby in Malayalam and did not realise that the nursing superintendent was standing behind us,” Joseph said.”

Menon added,“We spent the entire day apologising but we were not allowed to enter the ward after that.”

The hospital’s nursing superintendent,Usha Banerjee,said employees were encouraged to speak only in English within the premises. “We cater to an international clientele,” Banerjee said. “In any case,speaking in native languages might jeopardise patient safety; we avoid talking in any language other than English while inside the hospital premises.”

Asked whether the employees were dismissed,she said the nurses had not been dismissed yet. But both Menon and Joseph were told to tender their resignations to the evening superintendent.

“We have put in our papers,” Joseph said. “More than the insult,we are outraged at the fact that we do not have the right to speak in our language. Since we were not in front of patients,or even inside the ward,this was not violation of rules per se.”

Menon said they agree with the hospital rule prohibiting speaking in languages other than English in presence of the patients. “Any other language might make a patient uncomfortable,” she said,“but we were in the lift lobby and had not even started our shift yet.”

“Ninety per cent of nurses in the hospital are Malayalis. The hospital has no right to tell them which language to speak in. Nurses are mentally harassed and we will take this up with higher authorities,” said Usha Krishna Kumar,president of the Malayali Nurses Welfare Association and wife of former Union Minister S Krishna Kumar.

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