COVID-19 impact: Nurses resign, await release from hospitals

Updated: Jun 02, 2020, 07:50 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

As the state government imposed MESMA, and their certificates are with the hospitals that employed them, they can't leave; some who tested positive, claim discriminatory treatment compared to doctors

Nurses from a private hospital in Mahim protested recently when some were sent to a Worli quarantine centre which lacked hygiene and facilities, while some doctors were kept in the hospital itself
Nurses from a private hospital in Mahim protested recently when some were sent to a Worli quarantine centre which lacked hygiene and facilities, while some doctors were kept in the hospital itself

Doctors and nurses from Kerala have volunteered to come to Mumbai to assist in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but a number of nurses from the southern state and other states employed with private hospitals in Mumbai and Pune, have resigned from their jobs, and are still awaiting release.

A senior office bearer of United Nurses Association (UNA), raising concerns of nursing staff all over the country, said, "We have learnt that already 200 nurses and brothers have left from Mumbai and Pune, after resigning from their jobs. But a large number is still stuck here, even after resigning before the lockdown, as the state government imposed Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA), and their certificates are still with the hospital."

'Harrowing experiences'
Speaking to mid-day, a nurse who resigned recently from a private hospital in Mumbai Central, said, "Usually, by rotation on completion of tenure, (two years of contract /bond) the staff nurses usually resign. However, due to COVID-19 many nurses had to stay back and went through harrowing experiences with hardly any support coming from the hospital management, which led to many of them testing positive. Some hospitals provided separate rooms for infected staff, but some of us continued to share the rooms provided by the hospital."

Another staff nurse from a reputed hospital in South Mumbai said, "We were made to do double duty, and had to work though the mandatory quarantine period was 14-days. When our COVID-19 test was negative, we were called back on duty soon after a week of quarantine."

The nurse from the Mumbai Central hospital further added, "We have learnt that our hospital has opened two wards (medical) to treat COVID-19 patients, and majority of the staff nurses are awaiting their job description, as it is not fully operational"

Most of the nurses, who have already submitted their resignation have experience of over a year and above but are awaiting for the hospitals to release their certificate and other documents.

Moreover, they claimed that last month's salary was deducted drastically, and some were paid anywhere between R4,000 to R10,000, after deduction of mess fees for the past two months, a nurse whose parents are based in Kerala, claimed. The salary of nurses with a year or over a year's service is between R14,000 and R18,000.

This was acknowledged by the UNA and the Indian Nurses Association, both bodies wwhich fight for the rights of staff nurses and brothers.

"We have already made our submissions to the chief minister and the BMC, raising our concern about the rights and discrimination that the staff nurses have to go through. Most of them continue to work for a minimal salary but they have not been given the kind of care and respect that they should have got as a frontline warriors handling patients," said a senior office bearer of the INA.

'Discriminatory treatment'
An UNA office bearer added, "Two weeks ago, the nurses from a private hospital in Mahim had protested, as some of them tested positive. While the majority were sent to the NSCI dome quarantine center in Worli, which lacked basic hygiene and facilities, others including few doctors were kept in the hospital itself. The issue was sorted only when the nurses protested."

On Monday staff nurses at a Bandra hospital protested against similar discrimination, which was later addressed, as they were asked to go to a BMC-run quarantine centre, when some staff tested positive. Officials at the private hospital at Mumbai Central did not wish to make any statement. However, a person, close to the hospital management said, "Those people who have resigned prior to lockdown, it was routine wear and tear. We pay 30 per cent extra to staff who are working in COVID-19 wards and we have been following all the BMC and government guidelines in terms of their working hours and personal care including leave."

Doctors arrive from Kerala to assist Mumbai medicos

The doctors from Kerala who will help doctors at Seven Hills hospital
The doctors from Kerala who will help doctors at Seven Hills hospital

On Monday evening around 16 doctors including two intensivists arrived at the Hotel Lalit, in Andheri (E), to help Mumbai's doctors fight COVID-19. Dr Santosh Kumar, the head of the team of doctors, said, "Seven Hills hospital is well managed by doctors from Mumbai, we are here only to assist them in managing the large inflow of COVID-19 patients. The hospital intends to extend an additional ICU facility for better care of serious patients, and by Tuesday, it will set up an additional 20 beds, which will be gradually increased to 100 and later much more, as more doctors and nurses come in"

Talking about the nurses, Dr Santosh added, "I have heard from various community associations in Mumbai and also nursing unions, that a large number of nursing staff have either resigned and intend to return to Kerala or their states, but are stuck due to lock down. We will be more than happy to have these resources from the city itself, if they are willing to join hands with us, so that more patient care can be given at the earliest. We want to assure the nursing community that they have been doing very good and we all are proud of them."

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