Nurses seek better facilities, equipment

Demands presented to civic chief

A live dashboard indicating healthcare professionals infected with SARS-CoV-2, hygienic and clean quarantine centres, separate COVID-19 wards and centres for infected healthcare workers, nutritious meals and proper treatment are some of the demands made by activists and nurses’ associations.

In a letter addressed to Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal and the State government, the activists also highlighted how nearly 200 nurses have resigned and left for their hometowns since the outbreak.

The activists have demanded complete personal protective equipment (PPE) for all healthcare workers, irrespective of whether they are working in COVID-19 wards, as many patients may be asymptomatic carriers.

They have also demanded better facilities for healthcare workers who are infected. “Some COVID-19 care centre have poor and unhygienic facilities, shortage of housekeeping staff, poorly maintained washrooms, and no privacy. In some of these wards, men and women are reportedly being kept together. Staying in such poor conditions for 10-14 days is stressful … Nurses tell us ‘when an ordinary person gets COVID-19, nurses take care of them. When nurses get COVID-19, there is no one for us’,” said the letter. It was presented by Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Clinical Nursing Research Society, Trained Nurses Association of India, Association of Nursing Teachers, Municipal Nursing and Paramedical Staff Union, and United Nurses Association.

It cited an April 2019 communication with State authorities showing 1,846 vacant nursing positions in Maharashtra. “Instead of hiring nurses from Kerala, the 1,800 nurses who have cleared the Directorate of Medical Education and Research exam process and are waiting to join work should be… given appointment letters and recruited for vacant permanent posts at the earliest,” they said.

The letter said hospitals should not be allowed to victimise nurses who are highlighting issues pertaining to their working conditions. “A nurse was suspended for speaking out about lack of PPE in the Wadia Group of Hospitals,” the letter said. A proper line of communication must be set up for grievance redressal at the health facility, with the opportunity to scale up the matter with appropriate administrative authorities if there is a need.

The activists have also demanded inclusion of nurses in decision-making bodies. “There is not a single nurse in the State-appointed COVID-19 task force,” they said.

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