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Updated: May 11, 2010 12:21 IST

Government hospitals face nurses' shortage

Afshan Yasmeen
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State-run hospitals are facing a shortage of nearly 4,000 full-time nurses. This does not conform to the Indian Nursing Council norms which stipulate a nurse-patient ratio of 1:4.

In fact, the average nurse-patient ratio across the State is 1:40 and the situation is worse in the city.

“Of the 9,000 sanctioned posts, there are only 5,000 nurses on rolls. Although most hospitals in the State have been upgraded the number of sanctioned posts has not been increased,” H.H. Dasegowda, State Senior Assistant Director of Nursing, told The Hindu on the eve of International Nurses' Day.

Countering this, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) Dean and Director G.T. Subhas said: “The Governing Council of BMCRI has permitted us to appoint nurses when there is a need. The services of those who had been appointed on contract will also be regularised soon. The actual shortage is in the district and taluk hospitals.”

He said the services of student nurses are used when necessary. That apart, all the beds in the hospitals are not always occupied. “So we are able to manage with the existing staff,” he added.

INC norms

The nurses' community, however, insists there is a crippling shortage. According to the INC, the nurse-patient ratio should be 1:3 in surgical wards, 1:4 in medical wards and 1:1 in ICUs. But in almost all hospitals, including Bowring and Lady Curzon, Victoria, Vani Vilas and K.C. General, the ratio is 1:40 in surgical wards, 1:60 in medical wards and 1:4 in ICUs, Mr. Dasegowda said.

“There is a severe shortage despite the Government appointing nurses on contract. Repeated requests to set right this anomaly has gone in vain,” said Mr. Dasegowda, who is also adviser for Karnataka State Government Nurses Association (KSGNA).

He said contract nurses did not have the same commitment that full-fledged nurses have and they cannot be held accountable.

Dismal conditions

The work conditions are also bad. KSGNA president Kamala Hugar said: “Our salaries are low and we don't have basic amenities such as changing/rest rooms, toilets or even drinking water facility in the hospital.”

“In Vani Vilas Hospital, some 30-40 of us on a single shift have only one rest room and two toilets. Sometimes we use the toilets in the wards,” she said.

“We are always under the threat of contracting infectious diseases while handling patients. We don't have any security and it is difficult, especially during night duty, when we have to face the wrath of patients' relatives for no fault of ours,” she said.

Passing the buck

Recalling how nurses were held responsible for dirty toilets in Bowring Hospital during a recent visit by Medical Education Minister Ramchandre Gowda, Ms. Hugar said: “There is a housekeeping agency for that, but we were blamed.”

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