Strike by nurses for regular jobs hits healthcare in state

Healthcare services were partially affected in government hospitals, mainly in the three government-run medical colleges, on Tuesday with contractual nursing staff across the state going on mass leave. They congregated in Bhubaneswar and took out a protest rally demanding regular appointment.

Sources said routine indoor services were affected in all three medical colleges though they managed to render emergency services. Capital Hospital in the state capital, which has 70 contractual nurses, deployed nursing supervisors and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) to face the nurses’ shortage. “The dozen-odd supervisory staff also cooperated by discharging nursing duty and working overtime. While some nurses from Unit IV hospital were deployed in Capital Hospital, ANMs were pulled from field duty and were positioned in the Capital Hospital,” said chief medical officer Sudarshan Das.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Post-Graduate Institute of Paediatrics, better known as Sishu Bhawan, in Cuttack was the worst affected. “Nobody is around even to change drips of my son,” said a woman in Sishu Bhawan. Sishu Bhawan authorities conceded that the strike had a great impact on child care. “We had a bad time managing the nursing care of children due to the strike of contractual staff,” said Dr Hiranya Mohanty, superintendent of Sishu Bhawan, which has around 72 contractual nurses.

SCB Medical College and Hospital authorities said the strike had a minimal impact on their services though. “We had made alternative arrangement to deal with the situation. Nursing and pharmacy students studying at SCB were roped in,” said Dr B N Moharana, emergency officer of  SCB hospital, where a substantial 430 nursing staff are contractual, compared to just 260 regular nurses.

VSS Medical College and Hospital, Burla, and MKCG Medical College, Berhampur, where around 250 nurses each are contractual and 100 each are regular staff, pulled all strings to manage the day. “Since it was just for a day, we managed by re-distributing regular staff. Emergency services were not affected,” said VSS principal Dr Santosh Kumar Behera.

Over 100 nurses from Burla attended the Bhubaneswar rally, said Lalita Nikhandia, a member of  All Odisha Contractual Nurses Association (AOCNA). The agitating nurses took out a rally from near Ram Mandir to Lower PMG in Bhubaneswar. “Our demands have been pending before the government for years, but nothing has been done,” said AOCNA general secretary Jayanti Sahoo. “Even though we don’t want patients to suffer because of the strike, we had no option but to take recourse to this step,” she said.

AOCNA president Sibani Das said the government must abolish the contractual appointment of nurses and regularize those engaged on contract. “Around 3,000 posts of nurses are lying vacant though the Union government is giving aid to recruit nurses on the ratio of one for four patients,” she pointed out. Around 2,000 nurses are working on contract against a regular nursing staff of less than 1,000 in the state. The contractual nurses employed under various schemes get a monthly salary of Rs 5,200 to Rs 9,300.

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