Nurses' stir cripples hospitals in Kerala

Nurses' stir cripples hospitals in Kerala

The strike by nurses across the country for better salary and service conditions is spreading in Kerala also. Close on the heels of strike by nurses in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, Kerala’s big private hospitals are facing the impact of strike.

Lakeshore Hospital, one of the major hospitals in Kerala’s business capital Kochi suspended 50 striking nurseson Tuesday. Functioning of Kolenchery MOSE Medical College, another major hospital in Ernakulam district has also been affected. Earlier there had been a major strike by nurses at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences. But it had been settled.

According to the nurses’ organisation, a majority of nurses come from lower middle class backgrounds and they take huge loans for studying nursing course. But even major hospitals pay meagre salaries to even senior nurses, they say.

In Lakeshore Hospital, the strike was called by United Nurses’ Association (UNA). According to UNA leaders, the working hours were too long and work load was too high to handle. But the hospital management denied it and said the strike was illegal. The management has moved the court against the strike.

Further the management noted that the minimum salary for an experienced nurse demanded by UNA was far higher than the salary fixed by Kerala government. The Kerala government  fixed a salary of Rs 9,000 for nurses with two years of experience but UNA was demanding a salary of Rs 15,000.

Huge disparity

According to UNA leaders there was a huge disparity in salaries of nurses in government and private hospitals in Kerala. They pointed out that nurses in government service were getting more than twice the salary being given by big private hospitals.

Health Minister Adoor Prakash said private hospitals in the state should be able to solve the issue amicably. At the same time, striking nurses should not forget their responsibilities, he added. Labour Minister Shibu Baby John who responded to the issue said he was sympathetic to the demands of nurses. “I even hold the opinion that the minimum salary for nurses fixed by state government needs to be revised,” he said. But he added that he disapproved of the way in which nurses organisations were organising strike and pointed out that the strike at Kochi Lakeshore Hospital was being held without serving notice.

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