A staff nurse in Vani Vilas Hospital was infected with a life-threatening disease after she accidently pricked herself while assisting a doctor during an emergency operation. She has since been under treatment.
This is not an isolated case.
Hundreds of nurses working across the State, especially in government hospitals, risk catching serious infections while handling patients. A common occurrence in labour rooms is amniotic fluid splashing on them, even as the nurses are unaware if the patient has any infection. And yet, nurses are not paid any risk allowance and their medical allowance is a meagre Rs. 100 a month.
Nurses in government hospitals are overworked and underpaid. Although these hospitals have been upgraded with more beds and other facilities for patients, the nurse-patient ratio has not improved.
In fact, of the 11,500 sanctioned posts, more than 5,000 posts are vacant in government hospitals. This does not conform to the Indian Nursing Council norms which stipulate a nurse-patient ratio of 1:4.
According to Vijay Naik, general secretary of Karnataka State Nurses’ Association, the average nurse-patient ratio across the State is 1:140. “Although nurses have been hired on contract, the situation is bad because their salaries are very low. The last recruitment was done in 2010,” he said.
With May 12 being observed as International Nurses Day, nurses 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.
They are also demanding a modification in the Cadre and Recruitment (C and R) rules that were last reviewed in 1980.
“Till 1989, candidates with SSLC pass were eligible to take up diploma courses in nursing. But after 1989, only those who have done their PUC are eligible. However, during recruitment, the SSLC marks are considered and not PUC marks. This should change,” said Kamala Hugar, former president of the Karnataka State Nurses’ Association.
On recruitment process
Health Minister U.T. Khader said, “We have started the process of recruiting 1,400 nurses through the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) for hospitals under the Health Department.”
Minister of State for Medical Education Sharan Prakash R. Patil said, “We have written to the Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA) to conduct exams for recruitment of nurses in teaching hospitals that are run by the Medical Education Department. They are busy with CET exams and counselling now. The KEA will start the process of conducting exams for nurses after that.”
On the exact number of nurses to be recruited, the Minister said it depended on the requirement in each institution.
Norms flouted In fact, of the 11,500 sanctioned posts, more than 5,000 posts are vacant in government hospitals.
This does not conform to the Indian Nursing Council norms which stipulate a nurse-patient ratio of 1:4.