Watch: KEM Nurses’ Message to All Frontline Nurses 

Watch a message from a KEM frontline nurse to her fellow COVID-19 warriors.

3 min read

Video Editor: Varun Sharma

Maharashtra, and Mumbai specifically, is buckling under the pressure of the mounting COVID-19 cases.

Healthcare workers are overburdened and hospital systems are overworked.

On 1 June, a video from King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital surfaced where it seemed that no nurse had shown up for their duty in the COVID-19 ward.

A viral video that was shot by a patient’s relative alleged that not one nurse was present in the ward and that there were around 33 patients. Only three doctors were present.

A KEM source confirmed the news to FIT, and another source from the hospital added,

“Less than 50 per cent of nurses are attending the hospital.”

Why is this the case? The nurses allege secondary treatment while resident doctors reel under the pressure of handling the critical wards alone.

The Nurses’ Demands

FIT spoke to Shruti, a nurse from KEM who had participated in the protest, and she told us that the day ended on a positive note.

“It was not really a strike, we simply raised a few issues and thankfully, the dean heard us out. We had a meeting with him and he agreed to our points.”
Shruti, KEM nurse

A video posted on Facebook today explains the nurses’ demands.

In the video above, the nurses list down four issues they are facing:

  • No access to swab tests
  • No specific beds for nurses who become corona-positive
  • Shifts that are too long
  • They don’t want nurses from Kerala

One nurse alleges that they are not getting access to the swab tests, and says that, “Without access to these tests, how can we be sure we are not taking the infection back to our families?”

Another nurse adds that there are no beds for them if they turn corona positive.

“Everyone knows that 60 per cent of nurses will become corona positive. If we can convert a ward into a COVID-19 ICU in one day, why can we not allocate beds for our own nurses?”

According to Shruti, currently nurses who are asymptomatic are sent to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) Hospital, and nurses who are symptomatic are sent to 7 Hills. This process takes 8-9 hours, and the nurses are requesting for beds to be given to them in the hospital they work at.

“We wrote a letter to the dean on 31 May about a separate special ward for nurses. We did not get a positive reply so we wanted to ask Sir why we did not get a reply. In out meeting today, the dean agreed to this.”
Shruti, KEM Nurse

She added, “The dean has admitted one nurse who is currently COVID-19 positive in one of our corona wards, in an adjacent room. He told us there will be provision for another ward just for KEM nurses, it is currently under construction.”

The video shows another nurse saying that they don’t want nurses from Kerala as “that is an insult to us.” She asks, “Are we not as qualified?”

Another nurse finally says their last issue is that of the long shifts. “It is impossible to work in the PPEs for 8-11 hours. We want it to go back to the original shift times of 6 hours.”

According to Shruti, in the meeting with the Dean, he approved of this change. Now the wait remains to see if these are just empty promises.

What Do the Doctors Say?

A senior doctor at KEM confirmed that nurses and ward boys too were not regularly attending to their duties and this was affecting patient care.

“Patients diapers are not being changed in time and the ward is smelling. They are not getting transferred in time.”
A doctor at KEM

Nurses have strong unions, allege doctors.

Resident doctors confirm that the work like changing IVs often falls on them, and this delays severely affect patient care.

So far, it seems the nurses have managed to secure some of their demands but the tensions during the COVID-19 crisis are brewing among healthcare workers.

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