Govt nurses on strike: hospital services severely affected

Govt nurses on strike: hospital services severely affected

Govt nurses on strike: hospital services severely affected

Services at several hospitals in the national capital were severely affected as government nurses went on a country-wide indefinite strike today, at a time when Delhi and many other cities are grappling with rising cases of dengue and chikungunya.

The massive protest has been called by the All India Government Nurses Federation and the Delhi Nurses Federation seeking redressal of issues related to pay and allowances.
About 20,000 nurses from government hospitals in Delhi, including those run by the Centre, the city government or civic bodies have joined the agitation, severely affecting the functioning of hospitals and delivery of services.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government today invoked the stringent ESMA declaring as illegal the nurses' stir.

"The LG has approved the government's proposal to invoke ESMA against the agitating nurses," a top official said.

The Essential Services Maintenance Act allows the government to declare a strike illegal in public interest.

The strike has hit patients the hardest, as most of the routine operations were cancelled, OPD timings were curtailed and emergency services were also affected.

"No routine surgeries have taken place and elective surgeries have been postponed at our hospital. We are managing with interns and contractual nurses as not a single regular nurse is on work. We have been badly affected," said Dr Vikram Bhaskar of Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital.

The child hospital which runs under the central government's Lady Hardinge Medical College gets about 1,000 OPD patients and one could see visible fall in the services for shortage of staff, he said.

Situation was similar at RML Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital and Delhi government hospitals like Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital and Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital with many surgeries being rescheduled and OPD timings affected.

Municipal hospitals like Hindu Rao and Kasturba Hospital too bore the brunt of the strike.
The nation-wide agitation has come at a time when Delhi and several other cities across the country are battling rising cases of dengue and chikungunya.

At least 487 cases of dengue have so far been reported in the national capital this season, with 368 of them being recorded last month. Eight deaths due to it have also been reported. At least 432 people have been diagnosed with chikungunya in Delhi so far.

"As we had announced, we are attending to emergency and critical cases only. But from Sunday, that too will stop if our demands are not met. Besides Delhi, nurses in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Puducherry and south India, among other places joined the protest," All India Government Nurses Federation spokesperson Liladhar Ramchandani told PTI.

About 60 nurses for RML Hospital were detained this morning for obstructing work, police said.

Till July 28, 9,990 suspected chikungunya cases have been recorded in the country, with Karnataka reporting 7,591 cases. Also, over 15,000 cases of dengue have been reported across the country this year.

Several major hospitals in Delhi, swamped by patients suffering from vector-borne diseases, had till late yesterday tried to reach a common ground with their respective nurses associations, but in vain.

Authorities at AIIMS said barring a couple of nurses, all regular nursing employees are working.

Ramchandani, who is also the General Secretary of Delhi Nurses Federation, however claimed, "AIIMS is to have its union election soon, after which its members would also join our strike. Railway hospital nurses too have shown solidarity."

Delhi government runs nearly 40 hospitals out of which LNJP Hospital is the biggest. Other major hospitals under it include GTB Hospital, DDU Hospital, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital and Chacha Nehru Child Hospital.

The nurses federation claimed that services were affected at all these hospitals.
Among the centrally-run hospitals, Safdarjung Hospital which employs 1,100 nurses, including 160 on contract, too suffered on account of the stir.

Many of its doctors, and technicians are already down with mosquito-borne fever and the strike has further hit its services. The hospital has reported three dengue deaths in July, and 263 dengue cases and nearly 250 chikungunya case till August 29.

"We tried to convince them (nurses) but they are adamant about their demands. The ministry has assured them but they are not yielding. So many people are suffering from dengue and chikungunya this season, and we also had asked them to defer the strike but in vain," Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital's Medical Superintendent Dr A K Gadpayle said.
RML Hospital employs about 840 nurses of whom 236 are on contract.

We have 300 resident doctors, so we are trying to manage, he said, adding, "we are getting 15-30 dengue cases and 30 to 35 chikungunya cases daily."

Medical Superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital, Dr A K Rai said, "Their demands about hike in pay scale are not genuine. Also, when people are dying of dengue, and chikungunya cases are going through the roof, you go on strike."

"We nurses have deferred the strike twice and recently for a month after proposing it on August 2. But, if the ministry of health betrays us, we have no other option," Ramchandani said, adding, "If needed, we will also court arrest in large number, or take to streets."

It is understood that both the federation as well as the Centre are seeking to talk over the issue.

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