While systems, including the government, are busy praising healthcare workers and showering flower petals on hospitals, they have been raising their voice for their rights, across the country.
In the national capital, New Delhi, the condition of healthcare workers is no different. The resident doctors of Kasturba Hospital have not been paid their salaries for the last three months. The doctors have decided to tender mass resignations, said Dr. Sunil Kumar, the President of the Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) of Kasturba Hospital, on Wednesday.
The RDA at the Kasturba Hospital, which is under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, claimed that they have not been paid their salary since March. A number of doctors and staff of the hospital have tested positive for COVID-19.
"All resident doctors of the hospital have not received their salaries for the last three months (March, April, and May). As this is not the right time to go on a strike, we have decided to tender mass resignations. We have not stopped giving our services. If the hospital is not able to give us salaries, then we would like to give our services in other hospitals (sic)," said Kumar, in a video.
"People are hailing us as 'corona warriors', clapping for us. It is a good thing that people respect us. But I want to ask, is this way to respect us? We want our salaries. I want people should know that about that in Delhi doctors are not getting salaries (sic)," he added.
The doctors wrote to the Additional Medical Superintendent of the hospital, saying that if the doctors are not paid by June 16, they would tender mass resignations.
"All the residents are working in this pandemic situation continuously putting theirs and their families lives' in danger. Over that we are not being paid salaries making us unable to pay our house rent, huge travel expenses, and to buy essential commodities (sic)," the letter reads.
"We can not work without money. Being the frontline workers we should be paid our pending salaries as soon as possible and should be ensured a regular salary payout. We are afraid that if we won't be paid by June 16, we will have to move for mass resignation (sic)," the letter added.
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In Hindu Rao Hospital, also under the NDMC, healthcare workers have not been paid for the last three months, as well.
“The salaries of all the healthcare workers, including doctors, have been pending for three months. Doctors have not been paid since February 15,” said Abhimanyu Sardana Bara of the RDA at Hindu Rao hospital. He told NewsClick that a few Grade 4 and Grade 3 workers have received salaries for one more month than the doctors.
As of now, many healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Hindu Rao Hospital as well. According to Dr. Abhimanyu, more than 30 healthcare staff from the hospital has tested positive.
When asked about the working conditions of healthcare workers, he said that they lacked personal protection equipment (PPE) kits initially, and did not have a robust system. They were then provided with PPE kits and other protection gear. However, he said, the quality of the protection gear was compromised. The size of the gear did not match, in instances, and the quality of the material was not up to standard as well.
However, the doctors have managed to cope with those issues. “Still, we have to be very particular about the use of protective gear. The ideal use for one PPE is six hours. But, many are compelled to use it for more than that period,” said Dr Abhimanyu.
“I have personally seen healthcare workers using one PPE for eight hours,” he added.
While Hindu Rao Hospital is not a COVID-19 designated facility, it has 50 beds for isolation.
At Bhagwan Mahavir Hospital, the salaries of doctors have reportedly been deducted if they are in isolation or in quarantine.
“Doctors salary deducted for quarantine/isolation period. Working in govt hospitals is worse than slavery, govt neither consider us humans nor any doctors rights exist here. If we get infected during line of duty then isn’t the period of treatment will also comes under duty hours?,” tweeted Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, a senior resident doctor at Manipal hospital and the head of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum (PMSF).
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The condition of healthcare workers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is no different. The nurses’ union of AIIMS had even resorted to a series of protests from June 1. At the protest, they raised issues including the implementation of four-hour duty with PPE and their uniform in COVID-19 areas, issues related to Vishram Sadan and women’s safety at the Sadan, the uniform rotation policy between COVID and Non-COVID areas, establishment of proper feedback system for healthcare workers, refreshing after doffing, establishment of proper donning and doffing area, display of duty roster, simplification of process of accommodation allotment, Parikarma Seva (shuttle service) for night shifts and the provision of ambulance facility for COVID screening/COVID positive staff, among other issues.
The nurses’ union even declared that they would all take casual leave on June 10. However, the administration spoke to the union representatives and conceded to their demands.
“Initially, when our representatives met the administration to inform them of the issues faced by nurses, they insulted us. They were not ready to meet our demands. Then we resorted to a series of protests. Since then, they started implementing the demands of healthcare workers,” said one of the nurses at AIIMS.
The Municipal Corporation Doctors’ Association (MCDA), an association of medics in Delhi, extended their support to the resident doctors of two municipal hospitals on Friday, and threatened to resort to mass resignations if their salary was not released within a week.
The MCDA also wrote to Delhi’s Lt. Governor, Anil Baijal, seeking his intervention. A copy of the letter has also been marked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Doctors of the NDMC are putting their lives and their family members in danger every day, MCDA president Dr R.R. Gautam said.
"Being the front-line COVID healthcare workers, they should be paid their salaries," he said.
"Our association fully and unconditionally support the reasonable demands of the resident doctors' associations, and have further decided that if the salaries of the three months of all doctors are not paid in a week, then we may also be forced to resign en masse from our government services (sic)," the letter said.
The MCDA, in their letter, added that if that was not the case, "then we may be granted permission to take VRS on a mass level".
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With Inputs from PTI