Delhi: In Many Hospitals, Poor Working Conditions, Low Salaries Force Nurses to Resign

Many are leaving the city because private hospitals are deducting salaries and fear of contracting the disease due to insufficient protective gear.

New Delhi: Facing exhaustive working hours, sub-standard protective gears, low salaries and no assurance of their safety from the government, reports suggest that several nurses employed in Delhi’s private healthcare sector have resigned.

Nurses, many of whom are from other parts of the country, are particularly worried about contracting COVID-19 amidst inadequate treatment facilities in the national capital.

Rince Joseph, the president of the United Nurses Association, a nation-wide association comprising of about 5.2 lakhs nurses, wrote to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, saying the staff is worried for their lives, according to the Indian Express.

“The staff is worried for their lives. There are no quarantine facilities and many are leaving the city. Many private hospitals are also deducting salaries. We have written several times to both the governments, state and Centre, but there has been no reply,” the letter says.

With COVID-19 cases rising sharply every day, two nurses in Delhi have died from the viral infection, while more than 800 healthcare workers have tested positive. On Thursday, the state reported a record spike of 2,877 cases, taking the total tally in the national capital past 49,000. The death toll is currently at 1,969.

Hospitals report substantial drop 

Various private hospitals in Delhi have registered a substantial drop in the number of nurses employed with them before the lockdown.

Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, a dedicated COVID-19 facility, now has only 60 nurses, down from 262 before the lockdown. In early June, the nursing staff at the hospital went on a one-day strike to demand better salaries for handling COVID-19 patients, according to the Indian Express.

On June 10, after the hospital was ordered by the Delhi government to be turned into a COVID-19-only facility, the nurses again went on a strike.

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The hospital reportedly promised an increase in their salaries, after which a few nurses resumed work. “Around 40 of our nurses have already resigned as their parents were worried for them. Many stopped coming during the lockdown due to the limited availability of public transportation,” Dr P.K. Bharadwaj, chief executive director of the hospital, told the Indian Express. “Last week, the nurses went on strike though some of them joined back after we promised a raise. As of now, we have 60 nurses.”

At the Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital, 40 nurses have resigned after it was declared a COVID-19 dedicated hospital. “Around 40 nurses employed with Sir Ganga Ram city hospital resigned when it became COVID-19-only. There were 110 nurses at the city hospital, and to meet the shortage, staff from the main hospital were brought in. Besides, many are under quarantine since they have been directly dealing with Covid patients. We are seeing how to fill the gap,” Dr D.S. Rana, chairman of the hospital’s board told Express.

Similarly, the Delhi Heart and Lung Institute (DHLI) is functioning with just 60% of its nurses at the moment.

Medics wearing PPE kits with COVID-19 suspected patients at AIIMS. Photo: PTI

Primus Hospital files case

Meanwhile, the Primus Super Speciality Hospital has filed an FIR against nurses who have demanded Rs 1,500 per day as COVID-19 allowance. The medical superintendent of the hospital wrote to the SDM (Chanakyapuri) claiming that the nurses had abandoned patients and their duties “with certain ulterior motive”, according to the Indian Express.

However, the nurses rejoined duty on Thursday night after the hospital’s administration assured them that their duty hours would be reduced.

Private hospitals, meanwhile, are blaming the government for the nursing staff feeling insecure. “Our staff was not even given time to be trained to handle a pandemic like this. Most of the nurses are from other states and have no social security here. They were never made to feel secure,” Dr Chandra Prakash, president of the Delhi Voluntary Hospital Forum that includes around 40 private hospitals told the Indian Express.