The Line of Duty
Sister Lini Puthussery (31), a nurse at the Perambra Taluk Hospital, who succumbed to the lethal Nipah outbreak in Kerala on 21 May after she treated a family of 3 who had contracted the virus, testifies to the heroism of the nursing profession. Her own story, the young sons she left behind, her poignant last note to her husband, have stirred many hearts. The World Health Organization workforce director Jim Campbell tweeted on 3 June lauding the indomitable spirit of Sister Lini. This was a day after Lini’s name appeared on the Economist magazine’s obituaries Webpage on 2 June.
On 27 May, when nurses from Perambra Taluk Hospital in Kerala entered a bus, the rest of the passengers protested and got off the vehicle. Even rickshaw drivers are refusing to carry nurses. Kerala State Women’s Commission has sought a report from the district police chief and Kozhikode DMO on the discrimination shown to the noble nurses. Commission chairperson M. C. Josephine has asked the authorities to conduct awareness programmes, if needed, to end discrimination. “Not only the nurses, but those who were working on contract at the hospital have stopped coming to work due to fear,” says Siby Mukesh, VP, United Nurses Association.
While doctors get all the glory, nurses are usually round-the-clock life-savers and sustainers. But it isn’t enough to give them lip service in return for their service. We should not expect martyrdom and self-sacrifice from them, but professionalism. The pay and working conditions of nurses in India need attention — it is only after much agitation and the Supreme Court’s 2016 guidelines on minimum wages that nurses in private hospitals got a materially better deal. It is no wonder that skilled nurses look for better prospects abroad, where their work gets respect and remuneration it deserves.