As the nurses and paramedics completed a week of strikes and protests on Friday, the Provincial Nurses Association, Karachi president, Aijaz Ali Kaleri, conveyed the good news that the matter might be resolved today.
Kaleri said that the chief secretary sent a spokesperson on Friday to apprise the protesters of the progress on their demands. “We are 99 per cent sure that most of our demands have been met.” The Nursing Sindh director, Zarina Habib, also offered the same assurance to the protestors.
The medical staff’s ‘peaceful’ protest came under attack by the media when four deaths were reported at the National Institute of Child Health on Thursday. Doctors refuted the notion that the deaths took place due to the absence of the protesting staff. “Although patients remain severely affected due to the deficiency of nurses and paramedics, it is unfair to blame the deaths on the negligence of staff members as patients died due to the nature of their illness,” said the NICH director, Dr Jamal Raza.
Two of the patients died of meningitis, one died of septicemia and the fifth, who died on Friday, succumbed to brain TB, said Dr Raza. “These are critical illnesses and given the serious nature of the patients at the hospital, this mortality rate is not out of the ordinary.”
He said that instead of highlighting the deaths, the greater concern should be the services which are being affected.
While some of the nurses and staff are covering the critical departments, such as the ICU, Neonatal ICU, and emergency, their duties are periodical and the doctors are facing problems.
Dr Mansoor of NICH agreed that the absence of staff has increased the workload on doctors which needs to be taken care of immediately. In absence of the medical staff, doctors have to supervise the doses and timings of medicines, ward transfers, while keeping an eye on any complication that the patient could develop.
The number of staff at NICH was lower on Friday than before and with the exception of the emergency and ICU’s, there were no nurses or paramedics to be found anywhere in the six-floor facility.
The services at other hospitals, including the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi Civil Hospital (KCH) and Lyari General Hospital (LGH), remained slow as well as the nurses and paramedics protested outside the press club.
Saima Baloch, a newly appointed staff nurse at LGH, said that although she regrets boycotting her duties, the staff were in a compromised position as they were opposing the existing disparity between the provinces. “I feel that my patients and the people of my own community are being affected and I hope the matter is resolved soon.”
Samina Catherine, from KCH, said that she was performing her duties but joined the protest when the police mistreated the nurses. The nurses pointed out that the Pakistan Nursing Council looks after all the nurses across the country and they all pay the same registration fee, but the rewards are different in each province. The protesting staff shared their skepticism that if the boycott ended and they returned to work, then the government would delay the implementation of their demands again. “The government is trying to delay it till the upcoming budget so that they give us only one thing, either the annual 10 per cent increase in salaries or our demands that we have asked for,” said nurse Gul Baloch.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.