The AIIMS Nurses Union in Delhi on Monday, December 15, announced an indefinite strike over their long pending demands, including those in connection with the Sixth Central Pay Commission and against contractual appointments.
Nearly 5,000 nurses went on strike stopping patient care services at the hospital even as AIIMS director urged them to call off their agitation and resume work. Images of a deserted AIIMS ward went viral on social media, showing a scary reality in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
Emergency services at the premier hospital in Delhi have been affected and critical care patients have been abandoned in view of ongoing strike.
AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria called the strike "inappropriate and unfortunate" during the ongoing pandemic.
"I appeal to all the nurses and nursing officers not to go on strike, and not to make us feel embarrassed about the dignity that we have as far as the nurses are concerned," Randeep Guleria said. "I, therefore, appeal to all of you to come back and work and really help us get through this pandemic."
Guleria said that the nurses union had 23 demands and most of them have been met by the AIIMS administration and the government. He said that one of the demands included a perceived anomaly in the fixation of the initial pay as per the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC).
The protesting nurses, however, alleged that their demands, promised by not just the hospital administration and the centre have not been met.
"Because the nurses' union were asking for a hike in the salary, it was said by the government that would sympathetically look at this as a fresh demand and asked the department of expenditure to consider this," Guleria said.
"It however seems inappropriate that when a country is fighting a pandemic, when we are fighting for our near and dear ones to save lives and we know that we need to work only for a few more months and the vaccine may actually provide a solution. Unfortunately at this point in time, the nurses have gone on a strike," he said.
Protesting nurses have also been demanding abolishment of gender-based reservation in the recruiting process of nursing officers and contractual appointments, enhancement of hospital accommodation and cadre restructuring.
"No solid solution was taken by the AIIMS administration and rather their demand related to the 6th central pay commission anomaly was turned down," AIIMS Nurses Union alleged.
"...It is shocking to know that the AIIMS administration decided to recruit nursing officers on contractual basis immediately which is against our strike demands," the Union wrote in the letter.
"The various demands raised by the nurses Union stand discussed with them for resolution. The Union has however abandoned many critically ill patients on the demand of perceived anomaly of fixation of the initial pay related to 6th CPC of the year 2006," a statement from AIIMS read.