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At least 84 nurses were sacked from Delhi's Hakeem Abdul Hameed Centenary Hospital (HAHC) without any notice.
The nurses on Monday, July 13, gathered in numbers and staged a protest outside the hospital premises against their dismissal and also complained that they received their termination letter on the department's WhatsApp group without any prior intimation.
According to The Wire, the nurses have alleged that they were removed because they raised concerns about the hospital violating the COVID-19 protocols, highlighting poor management of the COVID-19 ward and the facilities extended to the medical staff employed in the ward.
A young nurse who was part of the protest told the publication that the nurses and the hospital management had been at odds for over 15 days.
Reportedly, the nursing staff in a letter to the hospital pointed out the COVID-19 safety violations. They raised the issue of lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits, N95 masks and drinking water while fulfilling their COVID-19 duties.
82 nursing staff of Jamia Hamdard HAHC hospital, Delhi are terminated for demanding PPEs & other basic facilities like quarantine, food & water. We condemn these draconian orders & demand immediate restoration of all #FrontlineWarriors with acceptance of all their genuine demands pic.twitter.com/4l014ozEig— Harjit Singh Bhatti (@DrHarjitBhatti) July 13, 2020
The staff stated that they required a separated quarantine facility since they could not risk going home for the fear of transmission of the virus to their family members.
Also, the healthcare staff at the hospital said that they were given 3M pollution masks instead of N95 masks and the PPE was of inferior quality.
"We had been highlighting some of our issues for quite some time now. This included distribution of good quality PPE kits, including N95 masks, provision of safe drinking water, and give us some form of allowance. We'd informed the MS multiple times to meet these basic demands of ours, but no one ever paid much heed. Rather, the administration shouted at us and told us to leave. The language used by them was derogatory and their behaviour rude overall," said Arun Kumar, one of the nurses who faced termination, reported The New Indian Express.
He further added that even the salaries of staff members who got couldn't report for duty due to the lockdown have also not been cleared.
The nursing staff also complained of the non-availability of changing rooms to facilitate wearing and discarding of the protective suits.
According to reports, seven-eight working staff members at the hospital have tested positive for coronavirus in the span of over four months.
Shockingly, the front line health workers who have been risking their lives in treating the COVID-19 patients were not provided with a proper drinking water facility.
Their demand regarding drinking water was resolved after a few days of them emphasizing the hygienic concern attached to using the common water dispenser which was used by everyone in the hospital.
Nurses are protesting in front of HAHC hospital Delhi.84 Nurses terminated without any valid reason.Nurse who is diagnosed covid +ve also terminated by the mngmnt.@ArvindKejriwal @msisodia @SatyendarJain @drharshvardhan @ANI @ndtv @ashlinpmathew @TimesNow pic.twitter.com/iHJF1BquEl— Joldin francis (@JoldinFrancis) July 13, 2020
The general secretary of the Delhi-NCR United Nurses Association, Joldin Francis, said they had written to the Chief Minister about their concerns.
What the hospital management has to say?
The publication also reported the hospital authorities defending the termination orders.
"They have not been terminated. They have been, with due process, relieved by the hospital because their contract had ended. We have called all of them for fresh interviews as per our protocol", said the Nursing Superintendent (NS) of the hospital.
The authorities said that since the contractual employment of the 84 nurses ended, they were relieved from their duties. However, the hospital also said that they have been asked to come for fresh walk-in interviews to renew their contract,
"We will give them fresh offer letters like we do every year. Those nurses who are below average [in their work], they will be given feedback and their contracts will not be renewed. This also we do every year. There is nothing wrong in this," she added.
She also said that after the state government asked them to increase the number of beds for coronavirus infected patients from 30 to 200, the hospital management had to conduct several structural changes.
According to her, after the hospital became a dedicated-COVID facility, it had to bear enormous expenses and the hospital management was trying to provide their nursing staff with appropriate PPE kits and masks.
She defended their decision to provide 3M pollution masks by saying that those were 'absolutely fine' and also asserted that there was an RO at every floor.
The nursing staff have reportedly written to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to intervene and resolve the issue that involves protecting the corona warriors.
Reportedly, the nursing officers have, in their letter, highlighted 19 points as demands which, if not addressed, will force them to go fora mass strike from July 15 onwards.
CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam has also written to Chief Minister to ensure that the nurses are treated with respect and dignity and are provided with the minimum essentials they require to conduct their duty.
Letter from Binoy Viswam, Member of Parliament to @ArvindKejriwal CM of Delhi to intervene in the termination of nurses from HAHC hospital and ensure they are treated with respect and dignity. @SatyendarJain @msisodia @ShaleenMitra @Asthasaxena88 @VidyaKrishnan @RemaNagarajan pic.twitter.com/57bjfgEaPi— Inayat Singh Kakar (@inayat_s_kakar) July 13, 2020
While the country's health workers are facing a severe shortage of medical supplies and are complaining of lack of protective equipment, India is all set to become the largest exporter of PPE kits in the next six months.
Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Nitin Gadkari said, ''MSMEs are making 5 lakh PPE kits per day and now we are trying to get permission to export it and I am confident that within six months India will be the largest exporter of PPE kits."
The MSME Minister stated this during a virtual interaction with Hyderabad-based premier B-School Indian School Business (ISB) faculty, coincidentally on the same day of protest, July 13.
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