Nurses say lack of safety reason to quit job
IMPHAL/KOLKATA, 18th May: Nurses and other healthcare workers, who recently quit jobs in West Bengal's capital Kolkata and returned to Manipur, on Monday, said that inadequate safety measures and dearth of protective gear were the major reasons why they left the state.
A nurse, who reached Manipur from Bengal on Sunday, said that they were asked to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) by their employers at a private hospital.
"We were told to work for 12 hours every day. During these 12 hours, we needed to use the washroom, eat our meals, for which we had to remove the PPE, which is for one-time use.
"Once removed, it has to be substituted by a fresh one. We were, however, told to wear the same PPE again, making us vulnerable to the dreaded (COVID-19) disease," she said.
The nurse also refuted the claims that the Manipur government had called them back, or offered them any incentive, as suggested by some hospitals in Kolkata.
An association of private hospitals in Kolkata had on Sunday said it had found out that the Manipur government had called the nurses back home and offered them a lucrative stipend, a claim refuted by Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
Biren clarified that no such advisory asking nurses to return was issued.
The chief minister also contended that he could not have forced the healthcare workers to stay put in Kolkata if they were feeling uncomfortable there. Another nurse, who returned to the state from Bengal, said scarcity of water and the lack of proper quarantine facilities forced her to resign.
"There was not enough water to wash clothes or take a bath. Add to that, there was no isolation unit for the nurses attending to COVID-19 patients. Many of us had to go back to our hostels, where other inmates lived. They (other hostellers) were exposed to the risks too," she noted.
Over 350 nurses quit their jobs at private hospitals of Kolkata last week and left for their homes in Manipur and other states amid a spurt in COVID-19 cases.
The sudden exodus of nurses from West Bengal has put the state's healthcare sector in a spot, with the hospitals now limiting the number of admissions and counselling the remaining staff.
The CEO of AMRI hospital in Kolkata, Rupak Barua, had last week said the decision by the governments of Manipur, Tripura and Odisha to call nurses back to their home states will cause a serious crisis for the private hospitals in Kolkata.
He had, however, admitted later that a misunderstanding had prompted him to make the statement.
"Since the Manipur government had arranged for transit passes for so many nurses from across Kolkata, it was initially thought that the state wanted to take them home. We have, however, learnt that the nurses themselves had approached their government through local MLAs, wanting to go back. We have no dispute with any government," Barua said.
A health worker from Manipur, however, cited discrimination as the reason for his return.
"I had gone there for work. There are many like me who hail from financially downtrodden families and are in a dire need of jobs. They continue to live in other cities, despite the taunts and discrimination. I, however, could not put with it and returned to my home state," he said.