As the ongoing protest of the Nurses' Union in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has entered its fourth day, the talks between AIIMS administration and representatives of the union on Thursday remained inconclusive. The union, which represents about 5,000 nurses in the AIIMS Delhi campus, has been protesting for the last four days over its members' poor working conditions.
On Wednesday, the union had warned the administration that they would go on strike if their concerns are not addressed, as the number of workers infected by COVID-19 at the hospital here have risen to 329, including 47 nursing staff.
“The administration was not ready to agree with our demands,” Harish Kumar Kajla, president of Nurses’ Union, told NewsClick after the meeting. Since the meeting was unsuccessful, the union would continue with their strike plan, he added.
In a mail sent to AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, the Nurses’ Union on Wednesday had said that no heed was paid to the letters and regular representations in the task force meetings conveying the plight of COVID-19 healthcare workers. "At this difficult juncture, the aggrieved nurses of AIIMS have decided to carry on with our protest until the administration pays enough heed... we are still left unheard by the AIIMS authorities. So we have been forced to resort to severe steps including mass casual leave on June 10 and still if our issues persist, we have decided to go for indefinite strike from June 15," the mail read.
Underlining that they are seeking a prompt meeting with the Director, the union said, "We also do not want to go for strike during this difficult time. But when it would become a predicament, we will be having no options but to go for strike and the sole responsibility of all consequences will be on the AIIMS administration (sic)."
The demonstration will continue to take place between 9 am and 11 am from Thursday, as many have to be on COVID-19 duty, said one of the nurses. Around 300 nursing staffers have been assigned the COVID-19 duty.
Read more: Worried Over AIIMS Admin’s Apathy, Nurses’ Union to Launch Protests from June 1
Earlier, the nurses' body had put forth a number of demands including implementation of a uniform four-hour shift with personal protective equipment in COVID-19 areas of the Centre-run hospital, a uniform rotation policy between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 areas and establishment of proper donning and doffing area.
Kajla had earlier said that working at a stretch for six hours, which is extended to seven to eight hours at times, while donning PPE was adversely affecting the physical well-being of the nursing staff, especially the women.
"Many of our staff are facing health complications like body rashes and urinary tract infections, while several others have lost weight," Kajla said.
"Women are having issues related to menstruation as they cannot change sanitary pads with PPE on, nor can they go to the washroom. Once you wear a PPE, you cannot take it off just like that and thus," he said. He added that as the health of nurses is adversely affected, they are getting prone to contracting the infection fast.
Kajla said since there was no response from the administration, the protest would continue. But, he added that healthcare work is not getting hampered due to the protest. "Nursing staff participate in the protest in rotation after their shifts get over.”
urging the hospital administration to take “appropriate measures”, Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of AITUC, said in a press statement: "The Government antiques of showering flowers on the front fighters and having Taalis-Thalis, Ghanties, Diya or Torches have not helped to salvage the real issues which the front fighters have been raising. We urge the AIIMS administration to take cognizance of the demands of nurses and take appropriate measures (sic).”
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Since February 1, as many as 329 healthcare workers including four faculty members, 17 resident doctors, 47 nurses, 86 hospital attendants, 62 sanitation staff and 77 security personnel among others have been infected by the virus.
So far, three staff members from AIIMS have succumbed to COVID-19. An electrician who had tested positive for the disease died on Sunday. A sanitation supervisor and a mess worker at the RPC canteen had succumbed to the disease last week.
(With Inputs from PTI)