Of the total 5,237 nurses required to take care of patients in 10,225 beds, there are only 1,971 staff nurses. An additional 3,266 are required.

Acute shortage of nurses in medical college threatens to jeopardise patient safety.

The Nursing Directorate in the Department of Medical Education (DME) has informed the government of a shortage of more than 3,000 nurses.

The term nursing care was far-fetched in medical colleges, an official in the DME told The Hindu. The average nurse to patient ratio has been stretched thin to an unbelievable 1:70.

Of the total 5,237 nurses required to take care of patients in 10,225 beds, there are only 1,971 staff nurses. An additional 3,266 are required. These are the numbers required as per the standard norms of Indian Nursing Council and the figures are only for the existing five medical colleges. The new medical colleges like the one coming up at Manjeri are not included.

225 nursing posts were created last year, which are still being processed. Earlier, the government had agreed to create at least 15 per cent of the need but only 7.5 per cent has been sanctioned.

More posts would need to be sanctioned as a new block is coming up at the Thrissur medical college, said the official.

The Indian Nursing Council norm of 1: 4 ratio is thrown to the wind in the State medical colleges where the ratio is 1: 35 in the morning, going up to 1: 70 by evening. On Mondays, when most of the admissions come in, the ratio even touches 1: 100.

Patient safety and patient care takes a serious beating here as it becomes humanly impossible for a nurse to reach out to so many patients. Instances of errors in nursing services are often highlighted but the fact that there is an acute staff crunch is hardly mentioned.

A medical education official told The Hindu that going by the public health standards there should be three nurses for a doctor. However, the medical colleges have a reverse ratio. The doctors are double the number of nurses in the medical colleges.

While doctors leave after prescribing the drug and the dosage, the nurses are stuck with administering drugs to about 70 patients at a time. It may take hours to provide the first dose to all the patients and before finishing the whole list, it will be time to administer another dose to the patient at the beginning of the list.

Nursing posts were last revised in 1982 after which there had been only a few additions, said the DME official.

Even as the government is seemingly reluctant in providing the required number of nurses, the private institutions too have followed suit by minimising recruitments, especially with the new diktat on minimum wage.

Qualified nurses are turning to other jobs because of lack of opportunities in both the public and the private sector, even though over 6,000 graduate nurses are coming out every year out of over 120 colleges in the State.

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