The Line of Duty

Alive - - Health -

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.

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