The nursing staff of Maharaja Agrasen Hospital in Delhi has been on strike since 10 April. They are demanding higher wages, recruitment of more nurses to meet the shortfall, and better working conditions.
There are over 350 nurses employed at the private hospital located in Punjabi Bagh. Nearly all of them have been demonstrating outside the hospital for two days under the banner of the United Nurses’ Association. Only the in-charges of departments and some others are still on duty in order to support critical patients, although they too are fully supporting the struggle.
Their main demand is a minimum basic salary of Rs 20,000 per month, along with increments based on years of experience.
In 2016, a committee set up by the central government — following orders by the Supreme Court — had recommended a minimum salary of Rs 20,000 per month for nurses in private hospitals.
Speaking to Newsclick, Arun Raj, vice-president of the United Nurses’ Association, said, “The majority of nurses at Maharaja Agrasen Hospital continue to earn less than Rs 15,000 a month. It is not enough to survive in a city like Delhi.”
Another major demand is that the hospital hire more staff to maintain a better nurse-to-patient ratio — 1:1 for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and 1:4 for other wards.
“The hospital is accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) as well as by the Joint Commission International (JCI). According to these standards, the hospital must maintain a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:1 for the ICU and at least 1:4 for wards.” said Arun.
“At present, one nurse looks after as many as 6 to 8 patients. This is not good for the patients as it is then not possible to provide sufficient care and attention to each patient, and the nurses end up being grossly over-worked and over-burdened.”
The nurses are also demanding extra pay for overtime duty, hiring of ambulance call staff, and sound implementation of leave policy — 7 days’ sick leaves, 12 casual leaves, and 21 days’ annual leave.
Arun said nurses are also facing an issue with the superintendent at the hospital. “The nurses have been complaining that the superintendent has been misbehaving with the nursing staff and using sexist language. The nurses demand that the superintendent be removed.”