Risky `home care' for nursing students

MADURAI APRIL 15. The CSI Jayaraj Annapackaim College of Nursing here has raised a controversy, sending girl students to private bungalows for taking care of affluent patients under a ``home care" scheme.

For more than a year, the students were deputed for the work against their will as the scheme was made mandatory, in spite of there being unmindful no such provision in the Tamil Nadu MGR Medical University guidelines, alleges a section of the teaching faculty, which has revolted against the ``unethical'' practice.

``The girls are sent on two shifts to private premises. The night shift is a nightmare, since they are dropped at 7 p.m. and picked up only in the morning. Many girls complained of ill-treatment which was ignored by the college authorities,'' claims Jothi Sophia, head of the Department of Paediatrics.

Two girls are sent at a time and Rs. 300 is collected as service charges per shift from the ``clients''. The fund raised from the scheme was never given to the students but diverted to the ``Action Home Nursing Trust'', managed by the Dean, Suseela Packianathan, and a few social workers in Madurai, she said.

A handful of staff members have sent a memorandum to the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, through the Vice-Chancellor.

According to J. Dilipen, formerly coordinator of the trust, the affordable class usually seeks the services of nursing students to take care of patients, who do not have many to attend to their needs at home. ``We visit the house of the clients and assess whether they can afford the service. The girls will be sent only when the work place is found to be conducive. However, it is not 100 per cent safe,'' he said. Boys were also sent to the work initially but later the practice stopped as the ``clients'' did not prefer them.

However, ``on many occasions there have been complaints from the girls that they were made to do menial works and even abused by the clients. When there is no provision to send resident nursing students to unknown places for work, how did the management approve this risky scheme,'' wondered Raja Christian, head of the Computer Science department. Another senior teaching faculty member, Edwin Rajakumar, said only students in the sixth semester should be sent for attending on patients outside under the ``community health programme'' and that too under the direct supervision of a staff member.

Sensing trouble, the college authorities constituted a two-member enquiry committee into the charges and ultimately targeted the teachers, who opposed the ``home care'' scheme. More than 10 teachers, including Prof. Sophia, have now been issued with show-cause notices based on a unanimous resolution passed by the governing council as their action amounted to ``defaming the reputation of the college and disobedience to the management''. However, when contacted, Mohan Manickavasagam, Director of Medical Services and Education, CSI Diocese of Madurai and Ramanathapuram, said ``home care'' was a concept widely practised in developed nations. The patients in Western countries preferred it for post-operative or in-patient care was expensive. ``Home care'' experience was an essential criterion for jobs abroad, he said.

Also, ``the girls are not sent alone but in pairs. There has not been a single complaint of misbehaviour so far. The fund generated through the scheme is used for the welfare of poor patients at the Christian Mission Hospital through the Action Home Nursing Trust,'' he said.

Still the ``home care'' scheme was suspended following the charges levelled by some teachers. The college council appointed a one-man commission, led by the former Director of Medical Education, Sembon David, to probe the allegations and submit a report, said Dr. Manickavasagam.

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