KARACHI: As hours' long negotiation with health officials yielded no result, the nursing staff continued their strike for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.
The strike has paralysed the provision of health services in public hospitals in Karachi and other districts of Sindh as around 1,000 nurses from across Sindh also joined the protest in Karachi while others have chosen to stay away from their jobs. Due to the protest, dozens of operations have been delayed in Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Civil Hospital, Karachi, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and other hospitals in Karachi.
"More than 3,000 nursing staffers are working in various government hospitals. Now, we are performing emergency and intensive care unit duties. If government turns a blind eye to our demands, we will completely go on strike," said Aijaz Kaleri, the president of Young Nurses Association.
The protesting nurses, students and faculty members of nursing colleges have demanded that the authorities pay their dress, mess, health and risk allowances as well as salaries and nursing stipends at par with the Punjab government. "The nursing stipend in other province is Rs20,000 but here we get only Rs6,800 per months, which is not sufficient," said a first year student of a nursing college in Karachi. Another nurse, Zakia Bano, said that Rs6,000 to Rs8,000 are given for dress, mess, health and risk allowances in other provinces. "But we only get Rs900."
The protesters also demanded up-gradation of the administrative posts from grade 16 to grade 18. "For the last many years, the seats are not upgraded and promotions are delayed, due to which around 20 posts of nursing college principals are laying vacant," said Kaleri.
After the protest, the government constituted a committee under the supervision of additional health secretary to negotiate with the protesting health staff. The first meeting was, however, not fruitful. "Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho is unwilling to talk [to us] and we have submitted our demands to the additional secretary, who has assured to resolve the issue," said Kaleri. "But we will not end our protest until and unless the government gives us a written guarantee."
During the day-long protest outside Karachi Press Club, a few nurses became unconscious and were shifted to the hospital for treatment.
Additional health secretary Aslam Pechuho was of the view that they have heard the demands, which will be discussed with the chief and health ministers. "It will take some time to consider their charter of demands," he said. "We have requested these people to cancel their protest because it creates problem for patients but they are dictating us to fulfil all of their demands, which is not possible."
Meanwhile, the protesting nurses have threatened to besiege the CM House in the next 24 hours if their demands are not met.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2017.