Though the recent order on pay scale may have cheered up nurses, there are still some issues in nurses’ welfare that remain untouched, say the nurses associations fighting to get their voices heard in the matters of salary and working conditions.
In the latest government order released on Wednesday, all employees in a hospital establishment, staff nurses holding B.Sc, post- graduate degrees or diplomas and general and auxiliary nurses with experiences have been provided a reasonable minimum basic scale.
But what the Industrial Relations Committee had failed to address is the calculation of bed strength of a hospital that provided a hospital a particular status, said Jasmin Sha, president of the United Nurses Association and the representative of nurses in the committee.
While the Government Order on the basic salary was most welcome, the tricky issue of bed strength was likely to give scope for manipulation, said Mr. Sha. The general norm prevailing is that if there are more than five beds without a screen, it is considered a general ward and three beds in a general ward are equal to one bed.
For example, a hospital with 1,200 beds that has 600 beds in the general ward, the total number of beds of the hospital will be considered as 800. This lowers the category of the hospital and hence denying the benefits of minimum wages fixed for a higher status hospital.
There are also issues of beds in specialty units registered as separate hospital unit and single specialty hospitals. But these were issues that would hopefully be sorted out in the near future, Mr. Sha said.
An official in the Nursing Directorate told The Hindu that the private hospital managements had always skirted the issue. The hospital managements always exploited the ambiguity over the bed strength, said the official.
When the hospital is pressing for an approval of a particular course in the academic institution attached to the hospital, the bed strength suited for the course is provided. However, when it comes to matters of audit for fixing the salaries of staff according to the status of the hospital, the number of beds is reduced.
Mohammed Shihab, the State secretary of the Indian Nurses Association, too welcomed the order even though the anomaly regarding the bed strength remained.
A sub-committee under the Labour Department would be looking into the issue in totality, said advocate Hussain Koya Thangal, the State general secretary of the Kerala Private Hospital Management.
All the eight hospital managements who participated in the talks are bound by the government order and many hospitals had already started giving salaries on the scale from June onwards, he said.
All others would follow suit, he said.