One year on, Centre's letter yet to reach Health dept

A Central government directive sent to the State Health Department by ‘speed post’ to protect and safeguard the interests of nurses and paramedical staff in private hospitals and clinical establishments in Karnataka has not reached its destination even after a year.

Last year, on February 24, Aparna Sharma, Director, Nursing Section, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, had sent an ‘urgent letter’ to the State Health Department, asking it to check the forceful retention of original certificates and documents of nurses and paramedical staff by private hospitals and clinics.

Sharma wrote: “It has been alleged that to retain nurses/paramedical staff employed by private hospitals and clinical establishments, they are forced to execute service bond as well as compelled to deposit their original educational certificates and testimonials, which are often released after payment of certain amount of bond money.”

It sought monitoring and regular compliance report from the hospitals/clinical establishments for scrupulously abiding by the instructions. In the event of any such incident being reported, the state governments concerned may immediately look into the matter and initiate strong penal action against erring hospitals, the order said.

RTI activist Kalidas Reddy, a resident of Ulsoor, had sought to know from the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare about the action taken with regard to the Centre's directive. The reply he got on January 29 this year was that it did not receive any such letter from the Union government.

The department had even forwarded the RTI application to the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, where again the information was not available. The application came back to the Health department, asking whether any such order was received, only to get a negative reply.

Requesting anonymity, nurses said there were about 4,000 nurses working on contract in the private hospitals and clinical establishments in Bangalore alone and original certificates and documents have to be deposited in many hospitals during recruitment. The documents are forcefully retained.

The Union government had passed the order to all state governments, based on a Delhi High Court order dated July 20, 2011, in a case filed by Ancy N against the Union of India and others.

She had fought the case herself and made the Union government frame guidelines to protect and safeguard the interests of nurses working in various hospitals of Delhi, who are made to work like bonded labourers by their employers by retaining their certificates. This  made the Centre pass a resolution for not just the Delhi, but also for all the states.

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