VIJAYAWADA: Seeking ‘equal work equal pay’ and regularisation of their jobs, contract nurses appointed in 2016 are staging protests, but they are attending their duties regularly. However, nurses in Vijayawada and Tirupati withdrew their protest after oral assurance from the Director of Medical Education, while others are waiting for a GO or a written assurance from the DME.
Around 8,000 contract nurses working in PHCs, CHCs across the state since 2006 are also participating in the token protests, which commenced on June 14. On Thursday, the contract nurses sent their memorandum of demands and requests through emails to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Health Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas and principal secretaries(Health).
On Friday, they decided to stage protests and deekshas at GGHs and in mandal headquarters and decided to go on strike from June 28 if their demands were not met. “There is no other way left for making ourselves heard. We have been approaching the authorities seeking justice, but there has been no response,” Bhavani, a contract staff nurse in Visakhapatnam, told TNIE. She said they have only three demands — ‘equal work, equal pay’, regularisation of their posts and ex-gratia/insurance coverage for the contract nurses on par with regular nurses. She said they are only staging dharna during non-duty hours without causing any inconvenience to the patients.
Stating that their demands are genuine, P Meenakshi, contact staff nurse at King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam explained that as many as thousand staff nurses were appointed on contract in 2016. “Since then, we have sincerely discharged our duties and even risked our lives during the Covid pandemic. More nurses were appointed in September-October last year in view of increasing cases. However, they were paid `34,000 per month as salaries, but we, who have been working with the same qualification and same risk, are being paid only `22,000 per month. It is truly unjust,” she said.
Meenakshi and Bhavani said their demand for regularisation is also justified as they have served nearly six years. “Even if the authorities are not considering regularsing our service, they should at least pay us on par with those who were freshly recruited,” they stressed. Similar opinion is being expressed by those who were recruited since 2006 and posted at PHCs, CHCs, AP Vaidya Vidhana Parishad hospitals and under the National Rural Health Mission. They say their qualification and work is not different, so why should they be paid less.
Most importantly, the nurses on the protest path have another important demand. They say during the last one year, around 10-11 contract nurses fell victim to Covid-19, but as they do not come under the ambit of the insurance cover, announced for frontline workers, families of those nurses are facing a sorry plight. “Unfortunately even in the latest GO, insurance coverage and ex gratia is only meant for the regular doctors and nurses and contract nurses have been excluded. We want us to be included so our families might get some benefits, if something happens to us,” Meenakshi said.
When contacted, a contract nurse in Vijayawada GGH said that they were first to start the protest, by staging an agitation for five days during off-duty hours. “When we met the Director of Medical Education and explained our problems, he said the file for enhancing salaries has been put up and will shortly be sent to the Chief Minister’s Office for approval and in one month’s time salary would be hiked,” she said and clarified that they do not belong to any union or association.
Following the assurance those in Vijayawada GGH withdrew from the protest. Similarly contract nurses in Tirupati also gave up their protest. However, those staging protests under the banner of the AP State Government Contract and Outsourcing Staff Nurses Union have decided to continue the protest till there is a written assurance.
Equal work, equal pay
Regularisation of their jobs
Ex-gratia/insurance coverage for contract nurses also on par with regular nurses