As protesting nurses in Karachi made their way towards the Governor’s House on March 28, they were most tragically met by police wielding batons, water cannons and tear-gas canisters. Several nurses have been injured while some were reportedly beaten by the police even after they were held in custody. The denial to voice their demands has angered the nurses even more.
Most of the nurses belonged to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Complex and the Civil Hospital, but they were also joined by staff from other government medical institutes. Nursing and paramedical staff, essential, of course, to the running of any hospital have been demanding a raise in salaries and better perks. Nurses in Sindh say their pays are below those given to staff doing similar work in other provinces. But there have been protests by nurses supporting the Young Nurses Association in Lahore as well, and members of the profession clearly feel that they are not given their due rights. This claim has some truth to it as the situation of nurses is grim, with staff too often made to work extremely long hours against low pays. Top officials in charge of nursing in Sindh agree with this, but it is yet to be seen what will happen on the ground, given the resources that governments have and the growing tensions which now exist between the nurses and the administration.
It is also true that while the nurses are justified in their demands of conducting strikes and boycotting work, reports say at least three children have died at the National Institute of Child Health in Karachi because the designated staff was unavailable to care for them. However, the spokespersons for the nurses said that statistically an average of five children die at the institute as it is. The crux of the matter, however, is that something needs to be done. The sight of police clashing with the women in white is pathetic and should have been avoided at all costs. The government needs to do the needful to ensure that there is no discrimination in privileges across provinces.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.