Nurses in Kerala to go on indefinite stir from July 17

Nurses strike ends, basic pay of nurses working in hospitals with 50 beds fixed to Rs 20,000.

Kochi,July12:The notice posted in the ER wing of a prominent 500-plus bed hospital in the city on Tuesday read: “Only acute trauma patients will be admitted.”

The hospital had to shelve all cath lab procedures as well as postpone several elective surgeries to survive the day with its skeletal nursing staff.

The token State-wide strike by nurses in private hospitals on Tuesday in protest against the inadequacy of the minimum wages package declared by the government for nurses had most private hospitals in the State working at 50-70% efficiency.

In Kannur and Kasaragod, where the nurses affiliated to the Indian Nurses’ Association (INA) are already on indefinite strike, the functioning of several private hospitals were badly affected.

Worse situation

With the State committee of the United Nurses’ Association (UNA), which has strong units in 326 hospitals across all districts, announcing its decision to go on an indefinite strike from July 17, things could take a turn for the worse, especially at a time when the State is battling the worst fever epidemic ever in recent years.

Thousands of nurses in private hospitals marched to the Secretariat on Tuesday demanding fair wages.

Members of the INA are already on an indefinite strike and are on a fast-unto-death in front of the Secretariat.

Both the INA and UNA allege that in declaring a new minimum wages package, the government had batted solely for the trade unions representing other hospital employees and not the nurses.

“The recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed committee for fixing nurses’ minimum wages were not even considered by the government,” Sibi Mukesh, State vice president, UNA, said.

Unfavorable salary

“By merging the DA with the basic pay and declaring a new basic pay of Rs. 17,200, the government is not doing us any favour. Because in effect, the new gross salary of a qualified nurse will not be more than Rs. 20,000 and is not very different from that of other unskilled hospital employees,” INA secretary Mohammed Shihab said.

Meanwhile, private hospital managements have called upon the government to declare the indefinite strike by nurses as illegal.

“We are all for a realistic, practical wage hike for nurses. But to expect us to hike the nurses’ wages to be on par with the government’s salary in a single step is impossible. This will escalate the cost of care and put the public to untold difficulties,” M.I. Sahadulla, chairman, KIMS Hospitals, said.

“We are providing employment to so many people and they cannot blackmail us. This strike is now no longer between the nurses and hospitals, and the government should intervene,” Mr. Sahadulla added