Nursing bodies on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of a Delhi government decision to train 5,000 youths as health assistants to prepare for a possible third COVID-19 wave, saying it would be playing with the lives of people. They asked why the government couldn't hire more nurses or nursing orderlies instead of such inexperienced assistants.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced on Wednesday that the government would train 5,000 youths as health assistants as part of preparations for the potential third COVID-19 wave. They will assist nurses and doctors in case the need arises. These health assistants or community nursing assistants will be imparted two weeks' training in basic nursing, lifecare, first aid home care, sample collection and handling oxygen concentrators and cylinders. The training will start from June 28 in batches of 500 candidates, he had said.
Delhi Nurses Union president B L Sharma said even when a hospital hires nursing staff on a contractual basis, the minimum qualification is a diploma. "In a three-year diploma course, the students spend one year learning about human anatomy. A 14-day training is just ridiculous. Even ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwives) undergo one-year training," he said.
"The Delhi government is playing with the lives of people. This move can be counterproductive and can lead to more deaths," he said. Sharma said the government wants to show that the city has enough healthcare staff to deal with the pandemic.
"They should have started building such a workforce last year only. The system doesn't recognise 'jholachhap' (quack) doctors. They don't get professional training but they have years of experience in the field. "These quacks are any day better than such volunteers," he said.
The Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) demanded the immediate withdrawal of the plan. TNAI national president Dr Roy K George tweeted, "Delhi CM's statements on training youth for nursing skills in 2 weeks is dangerous to human life. TNAI demands immediate withdrawal of the plan. A responsible govt shall take steps to recruit nurses on a war footing basis." Kejriwal had said the initiative to train health assistants was being taken in view of the shortage of medical staff witnessed during the first and second wave of the pandemic.
Secretary general of Delhi Nurses Federation Liladhar Ramchandani said, "Why can't the government hire more nurses or nursing orderlies for the job? So many of them are looking for jobs and with so much burden on hospitals, trained nursing staff can perform much better and ensure greater safety for patients." If the government is planning to bring on board such assistants, it should "specify their job description". Fameer CK, general secretary of AIIMS Nurses Union urged the government to not "experiment with human life".
"Delhi Government should make it clear, how a community nursing assistant can do the jobs like sample collection, catheter changing, vaccination, etc. with two weeks' training. Please don't experiment with human life rather recruit proper nurses & doctors," he said in a tweet. Kejriwal had said the training applicants need to have cleared Class 12 and be at least 18 years old. Online applications for training will be received on a first come, first served basis from June 17.