Indian Nurses Association state representatives who met the Minister of Labour and Excise, T P Ramakrishnan at his chamber today said that the meeting ended in a pleasant note as the minister had assured immediate intervention and redressal of issues.
“The Minister has made it clear that the Government would soon find a solution to the woes of nurses working at various private hospitals in the state,” said INA state president Libin Thomas. The meeting was held in the backdrop of nurses’ strike in Kannur district and the indefinite fast by INA state heads in front of state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. Nurses from five private hospitals in Kannur district have been striking since June 29 demanding implementation of Supreme Court order regarding the remuneration of private sector nurses in the country.
The Supreme Court in an order dated September 20, 2016 had directed the state governments to ensure that the nurses working in the private sector receive a remuneration at par with those working in the government hospitals. According to the order, the basic pay of nurses working in private hospitals with 200 beds is Rs.28, 900. Hospitals with 100-200 beds can lower the remuneration upto 10 percent and this difference can be upto 25 percent at hospitals with number of beds between 50 and 100. The ordinance also made it clear that the nurses working at hospitals with at least 50 beds should be given a minimum of Rs.20,000.
Presently, the private sector nurses in the state are working for meager wages. Nurses with 15 or 20 years of experience are working for a monthly salary around Rs.13, 000. This has been a standard for all private hospitals in the state. “We are working in these hospitals day and night. Most of the hospitals don’t follow the standard nurse-patient ratio which results in increased work to each nurse. Nurses are normally compassionate and the hospitals seem to exploit our sincerity to the patients and our profession. Most of the nurses are graduates. In majority of hospitals these nurses and the cleaning staff receive same amount of money as salary,” laments a nurse from Kannur.
The nurses also said that while they receive 13, 000 Rs as monthly remuneration, the doctors at these hospitals receive lakh of rupees as remuneration. “This is sheer injustice and insult. Majority of doctors at private hospitals seek more money while the health and proper cure of patients’ ailments are secondary to them,” they said.
The Minister has called for an Industrial Relation Committee (IRC) meeting on July 10 and the nurses expect that a favourable decision would be adopted by the Government in the meeting. “If the nurses’ demands regarding the wages are not properly addressed in the IRC to be held on July 10, we will go for a state level indefinite strike from July 11 onwards. “The nurses from other hospitals in the Kannur district and nurses from Kasargod and Thiruvanthapuram districts will take part in this massive strike,” he said.
So far five IRC meetings have held between the nurses and the hospital management representatives since the Supreme Court ordered to revise wages. None of them had signaled positive for the nurses. “Our demands are genuine. In this highly advanced world, it is not at all possible to survive with such a meager income. We learn nursing giving a huge amount as fees. Besides, the scope of going abroad for work after studies has also been decreased due to emigration and terrorism related issues at western countries,” said Shihab. The IRC consists of 13 management representatives and 13 Government officials and is headed by the State Labour Commissioner.
Nurses also pointed out that the working environment at majority of private hospitals in the state is not hygienic and safe. Apart from wage issues, nurses also face issues like lack of rest room and toilets in these hospitals. “We don’t demand much from the Government and the management. We should at least be provided with a decent wage. We are looking forward to a helpful action from the part of Government, said one nurses’ representative.”
Meanwhile, the Arch Bishop Mar Alancheri, has directed the hospitals under Christian management to revise the wage as per the Supreme Court order, once the Government agrees to the nurses’ demands. State Labour Commissioner and Additional Labour Commissioner also took part in the meeting held at the Minister’s chamber in the morning.