The United Nurses Association, one of the biggest unions of nurses from the private sector, has knocked on the Supreme Court’s doors through an intervention application to seek recourse on adequate provision of personal protective equipment, payment of salaries, accommodation and insurance for health care workers. The United Nurses Association (UNA) has an estimated 3.8 lakh members affiliated to the union, most of them from the private sector. It has filed an intervention application in a case that was taken up suo moto by the apex court on the treatment of Covid-19 patients in designated hospitals and handling of bodies.
The community of health care workers who have been on the frontline battling the Covid-19 pandemic have seen large number of infections among nurses and doctors owing to their high risk and exposure. Nurses across a few Covid-19 designated hospitals have complained that at times proper accommodation is not provided when they are assigned duty in Covid-19 wards. To protect their family members, many nurses have demanded that they should be provided alternate accommodation.
In their intervention application, UNA has sought formulation of a national Covid-19 management protocol for addressing the serious concerns relating to imminent and extreme risks to workers throughout the country. In terms of resources and facilities, the union has said in its plea that adequate protection kits must be made available to every single health care professional working in Corona isolation wards or to those who work in close proximity of patients suspected to be infected with the virus.
“Adequate and standard nutritious meals should be provided to the health care workers and proper accommodation should be provided in close proximity to the hospital or health care centre where they are discharging their duties and function,” the intervention application said.
The application further seeks temporary expansion of infrastructure of hospitals and health care centres to provide separate and hygienic washrooms and expansion of the scope of personal accident cover under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package for Health Care Workers. “It should include all health care workers across sectors, including those recruited on ad-hoc basis.”
It also sought directions from the court to ensure full and timely payment of salaries to the health care workers in private hospitals and directions to prevent deduction of salaries in case a health care worker gets infected in the line of duty.
On June 12, the Supreme Court had suo moto taken cognizance of issues surrounding the poor treatment of patients in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital and deplorable condition of wards. During the hearing on June 12 a bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sanjay Kaul and Justice M R Shah issued notice to Centre, Delhi government and state governments of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Gujarat and LNJP Hospital on the grim situation in these states regarding the pandemic.
“All these facts, which have been brought to the notice of the Court by the media reports, clearly indicate a very sorry state of affairs of the patients of Covid-19 in the Government hospitals in the NCT of Delhi as well as in other States. We, thus, issue notice to the Union of India, NCT of Delhi, States of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat as well as to the LNJP Hospital in Delhi. We shall also consider issuing notice to other states, Government and Private hospitals subsequently,” the Supreme Court had said.
The court will hear the matter again on June 17.