A senior staff nurse in the Vani Vilas Hospital got infected with a life-threatening disease after she accidently pricked herself while assisting a doctor during an emergency operation and she has been on treatment for the past three months.
This is not a lone case. Hundreds of nurses working across the State, especially in government hospitals, risk getting infected while nursing patients.
Yet they are not paid any risk allowance. Though they are integral to the healthcare sector, their medical allowance is Rs. 50 per month.
With May 12 being observed as International Nurses Day, the 7,400 nurses working in government hospitals across the State are demanding better salaries and working conditions apart from risk allowance, compensatory pay for working on government holidays and non-practising allowance.
Although government-run hospitals in Bangalore have been upgraded with more beds and other facilities over the years, the working conditions of nurses are dismal, while their salaries are abysmally low. With a perennial shortage of paramedical staff, nurses do not get fixed weekly offs or even maternity leave. There is a shortage of 12,600 nurses in the State, according to the Karnataka State Government Nurses' Association.
Lack of amenities
Association president Kamala Hugar told The Hindu that nurses in most hospitals do not have basic amenities such as changing/rest rooms, toilets or even drinking water.
“In Vani Vilas Hospital, around 40 nurses who work in a single shift have to share one rest room and two toilets. Sometimes, we use the toilets in the wards. The situation is worse in district and taluk hospitals,” she said. A senior nurse in Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, who did not want to be named, said nurses on night duty faced security problems.
“We do not have any security and it is difficult on night shifts when we have to face the wrath of patients' relatives for no fault of ours. Several times, we have been assaulted,” she said.
Citing the mass hysteria a few years ago when anxious parents (who had got polio drops administered to their babies) had attacked the hospital staff after reports of side effects of the polio vaccine, the nurse said: “We are helpless most of the times as no one comes to our rescue.”
Although the government has appointed nurses on contract, there is a shortage of full-time nurses. Of the 11,500 sanctioned posts, only 7,400 are on rolls.
“This does not conform to the Indian Nursing Council norms which stipulate a nurse, patient ratio of 1:4. The average nurse-patient ratio across the State is 1:40 and the situation is worse in Bangalore. There is a requirement of at least 20,000 nurses in government hospitals in the State,” Ms. Hugar said.
The government should wake up to the needs of these healthcare workers who are celebrating , International Nurses Day on May 12, she added.