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July 6, 2019

Patients continue to suffer as nurses’ protest enters second day


July 6, 2019

Hundreds of patients suffered at Karachi’s public hospitals on Friday due to the second consecutive day of strike of nurses who boycotted their duties at wards, intensive care units (ICUs), operation theatres (OTs) and emergency departments of the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and several other public hospitals in different districts of the city.

Several surgeries and procedures were either postponed or cancelled by the surgeons and doctors due to the nurses’ protest, while hundreds of patients could not be admitted to the wards at public hospitals in the absence of the nurses, said the officials, adding that they managed the health care delivery services with the help of postgraduate students and house officers who were requested to assist their seniors in emergency situations.

Male and female nurses of public hospitals are protesting against the non-implementation of an agreement between them and the Sindh Health Department, according to which the health authorities had agreed to promote nurses in accordance with a four-tier formula as well as to pay health professional allowance.

The protesting nurses continued their sit-in at the Karachi Press Club (KPC), where they have established a camp, blocking one side of the road by closing it for all vehicular traffic. They shouted slogans, demanding that their demands be accepted.

Buses and vans carrying nurses from different public hospitals dropped the protesters at the KPC, where they remained present until sunset. They vowed to keep protesting by continuing to boycott health services until their demands are met.

“We continued our protest at the KPC on Friday, and we expect it to continue for the next few days because nobody from the health department or the provincial government has approached us today. If they feel that we would end our protest just because they are ignoring us, then they are making a grave mistake,” Aijaz Kaleri, a nurse and a representative of the protesters, told The News.

Kaleri said that nurses from all public hospitals in Karachi did not perform their duties at the wards for the second consecutive day, while 50 per cent of the nursing staff posted at the ICUs, OTs and emergency departments also boycotted their duties and participated in the sit-in outside the KPC.

“For the past two months we have been approaching every official in the health department, the Sindh government and the city administration to remind them of their commitment with the province’s nurses, but nobody even bothered to talk to us. We are forced to boycott our duties and stage a sit-in at the KPC, which would continue until our demands are accepted,” the protesting nurses’ leader said, and warned that they can also march on the Chief Minister House if their demands are not met.

Sindh Health Secretary Saeed Awan said they had sent a summary based on an agreement with the protesting nurses to the finance department for the acceptance of the nurses’ demands, but it was turned down by the finance department, with the argument that they were facing a financial crisis so the financial demands of the nurses could not be fulfilled in such circumstances.

“We want to resolve the issues faced by the health care workers, including nurses, and in this regard we are trying to engage them through negotiations. I would urge the protesting nurses to call off their strike and resume negotiations so that problems of the people and the health care providers could be resolved amicably.”

He maintained that he was away from Karachi due to the arrival of an international delegation in Larkana to help the health authorities in dealing with an HIV outbreak, adding that he would invite the protesting nurses to his office as soon as he gets back to resolve their issues and end their protest.

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