Lucknow: Health-care workers at the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, responsible for the isolation ward in Banda Government Medical College in Uttar Pradesh protested against the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) — masks, gloves and sanitisers — resulting in them risking their lives.
Members of the medical staff, with nurses at the forefront, also held a protest against medical authorities against arbitrary pay-cuts and non-payment of salaries for the past seven months. After the protest, a private firm terminated 26 medical personnel. The same nursing staff had complained of shortage of protective equipment against the novel coronavirus.
Banda Medical College has been in the news after nursing staff held an agitation against anomalies in their pay structure, and again after Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday posted a video of a staffer from the hospital on Twitter.
Gandhi tweeted a video of an unidentified health-care worker from Banda district, who alleged that staff was not being provided with safety equipment and that their salaries were being cut by the hospital administration without them being informed. The staffer went on to add that they were also being sacked by the hospital if they complained.
The student also alleged that she was terminated by hospital authorities after she asked for a mask and sanitiser, adding that her salary had been also deducted without any prior information.
Gandhi tweeted the video with a caption that said: "Our medical staff needs our cooperation the most. They are life-givers and are in the field like warriors. There is grave injustice happening in Banda where nurses and medical staff are not being given tools for their personal safety and their salaries are being cut.”
The nursing staff at Banda Medical College have been protesting since April 1 against the private company who outsourced them, asking it to increase their salary. They also raised questions against hospital authorities for putting their lives at risk at the isolation ward without providing them with any safety equipment.
A journalist based in Banda told NewsClick: "Five years ago an organisation by the name of Avani Paridhi, which is blacklisted, hired 70 nursing staff in a medical college for Rs 25,000. But, after a year, they reduced their salary to Rs 16,000. In the meantime, several agitations took place against this but they did not budge. The contractor who hired them said that they have an order from the government to reduce salaries and that if they did not agree, they would be terminated.”
"After their demands for an increase in salary and their complaint against the medical college for not providing PPE kit despite them being deputed at corona isolation ward, 26 nurses were terminated by the same private company who hired them," the journalist added.
NewsClick also approached the staffer whose video Priyanka Gandhi had shared on Twitter.
Archana Dwivedi, a nurse assigned to the coronavirus isolation ward at Banda Medical College told NewsClick that since the epidemic reached our shores, “45 outsourced nursing staff have been deputed to the isolation ward without them being provided with any safety equipment.”
She added that when she wrote to the medical college principal Mukesh Yadav, “he threatened us. When we did not get any assurance, we started protesting in front of the emergency ward. We were on the strike for four days but the principal never came. Instead, the ADM (city) and City Magistrate came and threatened us, asking us to call off the protest immediately else they would teach a lesson."
The nursing staff claimed that they were told to buy protective equipment on their own.
They said that they have been assured by the district administration that they will get PPEs in three days. “Our main demand is that our salary, which was set at Rs 20,390 in hand five years ago, is now only Rs 12,000. And no information has been provided to us,” they mention.
Earlier, nurses of Ram Manohar Lohia Institute and Resident Doctors Association of King George's Medical University, Lucknow, had also written a letter to the Vice-Chancellor regarding shortage of PPEs.