The suicide of nurse Beena Baby from Asian Heart Institute hospital last month has sparked off a series of strikes all over the city demanding their right to be free from the bond system instituted by most private hospitals.
The frequent strikes by nurses in various city hospitals over the last month —sparked off by nurses strike at the Asian Heart Institute after a nurse working there, Beena Baby, committed suicide — seem to be symptomatic of a larger problem, which is growing frustration over low pay, and poor working conditions at several private hospitals, and the right to be free from the bond system instituted by most private hospitals.
Most nurses in the city are asked to sign a two-year bond, whereby the hospital retains their original graduation certificates. These are released only on payment of up to Rs50, 000. Salaries are also low, with nurses usually e arning anywhere between Rs7,000 and Rs14,000 a month. In comparison, nurses in civic body-run hospitals have a starting salary of about Rs 18,000 per month.
On Thursday, nurses from Guru Nanak Hospital went on strike on the issue of low wages and the bond system. Last Friday, for a few hours, nurses from Seven Hills Hospital also went on strike on the same issue. Both were resolved and the strikes called off.
Shyju Thomas, 31, resigned from Seven Hills Hospital after last week’s strike.
“I have worked for more than four years as a nurse. I was getting paid only Rs 12,000. We also had a two-year bond system whereby we had to pay Rs 45,000 if we left before two years.” Thomas is now going to Kuwait to work in a hospital, where he will earn Rs 80,000 per month.
“Private hospitals have always paid their nurses poorly,” said Jyotsna Pandit, president of Trained Nurses Association. “The government and municipal hospital nurses are also not as pressurised at work as the private sector nurses. Private hospitals demand super specialty care from their nurses. The majority of the nurses are from outside Mumbai and find it difficult to cope with the working conditions here,” said Pandit.
The All India Nurses Association (AINA) wants to take the issue to the Union Health Minister. “
There is a law for even paan-bidi workers in this country. But our nurses, who are the backbones of hospitals, are treated like bonded labourers. We want the nurses to be paid at par with the government wages,” said Abraham Mathai, President of AINA.