Two nurses, who sacrificed their lives to save patients in the AMRI Hospital fire in Kolkata in December 2011, were among 36 meritorious nursing personnel who were honoured by President Pratibha Patil on the occasion of International Nurses Day on Saturday.
This is the first time that the National Florence Nightingale Nurses Awards were presented posthumously. The two nurses, Vineetha PK and Remya Rajappan, hailed from Kerala.
Vineetha PK's father and Remya Rajappan's mother accepted the award from the President at a solemn ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Saturday.
Acknowledging the contribution of nursing to health care, President Patil said that nurses are the frontline providers of medical assistance and information.
"You are crucial for providing medical care. Nursing is not only a profession and a career. It is service to humanity," she said addressing the gathering.
As the nation moves towards achieving success in the health sector by helping increase life expectancy and eradication of some endemic diseases, Ms Patil said there is much work ahead to achieve the goal of health for all. "It is still work in progress," she said. She also exhorted male nurses to take up the noble service.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the role of nurses, midwives and lady health visitors in prevention of disease and health promotion activities cannot be under estimated, while listing out a number of steps to improve healthcare system in the country.
He said, "The award, consisting of Rs 50,000 cash prize, a certificate and a medal, is a rare honour in recognition of selfless hard work, commitment and extra-ordinary perseverance in the course of performance of duties by the nurses."
Recognising the contribution of nurses in improving the healthcare system of our country, the Minister said a number of steps have been taken to strengthen the nursing sector, which includes giving a boost to nursing education.
He added that the Ministry has also decided to provide financial assistance for upgrading all nursing schools into colleges of nursing attached to government medical colleges.
He noted that to increase the number of nurses and teaching faculty, the student-patient ratio has been changed from 1:5 to 1:3; age of retirement for nursing teaching faculty has been raised to 70 years and admission to married candidates has been allowed in nursing courses.
Among those who were bestowed with the National Florence Nightingale Awards 2012 are Naw Lachu Ahtee, Sunita R Dhonde, Harbans Batra, Agrawal Dinesh Satish Kumar, Suresh Kumari, Rehana Akhter, Aruna Kumari Sinha, VG Padmini, Usha Dinkar Talele, S Hoikholhing, Udasi Sahu, Sheela, R Geetha, Petsy R Massey, Subrata Das, Bhawani Dev, Sujatha Surendran, Jayasri Maiti, Brig Tshering Khendo Bhutia and Satwant Kaur.
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S Gandhiselvan noted that exceptional contributions displayed by the meritorious winners will become the driving forces for the new generation.