Tamil Nadu Village Health Nurses’ Association conducted a demonstration on July 29 demanding the immediate dispersal of funds from the state government and to stop victimisation. More than 100 village nurses participated in the protest in front of the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services in Chennai.
From malfunctioning software to the work overload, the nurses had a number of complaints against the government.
The government had declared Rs 18,000 assistance for pregnant women from poor economic background through primary health centres under the Dr. Muthulakshmi maternity benefit scheme. But, in many cases the funds get delayed due to red tape and the blame goes to the nurses.
The nurses are using a software, PIGMY, to enter the data on the deliveries. Birth certificates are allowed based on this data provided by the nurses. But they allege that this software is malfunctioning and causes many errors, which in turn leads to the funds being delayed and the authority victimise the nurses for this. Many face suspension and transfer due to the technical error.
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“People with more than 20 years of work experience are also threatened with transfer or dismissal,” C Parameswari, the state president of Tamil Nadu Village Health Nurses’ Association told NewsClick. She added, “We demand to exempt them from any punitive measures considering their experience and age factor.”
“We are not people with ITI diplomas. But they are making us work as data entry operators,” said Gourishankari, who was participating in the protest. “Even the court is saying that Aadhaar is not mandatory for anything. But we have to use aadhaar for everything. And they are giving us only one day training for this technical job,” added her.
Another demand they put forward is regarding field work. Field work is an essential part of the work of a village nurse. But they are burdened with excessive documentation work, thus, not leaving enough time for any proper field work. They also demanded the filling up of vacancies to reduce the workload of the existing nurses.
The village health nurses are recruited for about 2,000 to 5,000 people. But in many places, this limit exceeds 17,000. This is causing tremendous work pressure on these people. At times, they have to cover the jobs of sweepers as well staff nurses depending on the situation.
Village nurses are an integral part of the Tamil Nadu health system. Employed under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), they mainly work in rural health centres. The qualification criteria for village nurses is diploma in nursing which is looked down upon in the medical field. In 2013, the government appointed staff nurses as supervisors for training village nurses which had caused a stir. But it was implemented on the technicality of educational qualification.
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The new Budget tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has also ignored the health sector. Though the allocation on health sector has improved considerably, it did not mention anything about any programmes or policy changes. The allocation for NRHM was raised to Rs 27,039 crore which is a 7.11% increase from the previous Budget. But the increase in budget allocation will be of no use if it is not implemented efficiently, which has been the case so far.
The economic survey conducted by the central government itself has revealed the lack of proper infrastructure in this field.