International Nurses Day on Monday will be another routine day for most nurses. It could be round-the-clock for those working in Primary Health Centres (PHCs).

A nurse in a PHC in Namakkal district has worked continuously for four days and nights last month. The PHC has only one nurse and she was relieved by a village health nurse during day when she sought leave to be with her sick baby. But she was asked to return for the night shift. In Karur district, some nurses have worked for 18 days without a break. A nurse attached to one of the PHCs in the district said when it became inevitable for her to take leave from work, a sweeper was put on duty. Though PHCs have village health nurses attached to them, nurses said the VHNs had field work and could not give that up.

Sometime ago, the government sought a private agency’s help to appoint nurses in PHCs. “But they are not well trained and cannot be allowed to handle the patients on their own,” points out a nurse who has been on contract for five years now and worked for several weeks without taking any off.

Ravi Seetharaman, vice-president, Tamil Nadu Government Contract Nurses Welfare Association, says: “This year, around 1,000 nurses were regularised. Next month, another 400-500 nurses will be regularised. It does not help to bring in nurses through private agencies as they are unable to handle the pressure in PHCs.” The association has sought permanent posts of nurses in villages.

“Inadequate number of nurses in private and government sector and disregard to the Indian Medical Council of India or Nursing Council norms are not helping the public healthcare system,” says G.R. Ravindranath, general secretary, Doctors’ Association for Social Equity.

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