The AIIMS nurses' union, which has started an indefinite strike, today blamed the hospital authorities for the suffering of the patients. Stung by a widely circulated video of unattended patients inside a ward of the hospital, the striking nurses in a statement this afternoon, said the hospital authorities are putting the patients at risk with their plans to recruit nurses on contract who are "unskilled and inexperienced".
Accusing the hospital of "cruelty and negligent behavior", the nurses union said the plan was "anti-labour" as contractual employees always get low salaries.
"If they are really concerned for the patients they could have called us for discussion or negotiation. It has been a month since we sent the strike notice, but we have not been called for any constructive discussion," the statement read.
The Delhi High Court, however, put a stop to the indefinite strike today and issued notice to the nurses, as the hospital contended the strike is illegal. The next hearing is on January 18.
The strike had started yesterday over a list of 23 demands which was topped by revised salary under Sixth Pay Commission.
The hospital had appealed to the nurses earlier to reconsider their strike plan in view of the COVID-19 situation. AIIMS is one of the key dedicated facilities for Covid.
"I am very proud of the AIIMS family for the tremendous work done during the COVID-19... the nation is proud. Unfortunately, at this time of pandemic, the nurses' union has gone on strike," AIIMS Director Prof Randeep Guleria had said in a video message to the hospital's Nurses Union.
Professor Guleria also said the nurses had misinterpreted the Sixth Pay Commission rules, but the government was willing to consider their demands.
"It, however, seems inappropriate that when a country is fighting a pandemic...the nurse union has decided to go on a strike...I appeal to all of you to come back to work and really help get us through," Professor Guleria said.
Since yesterday, a video of a ward of the premier medical institution, showing patients with no one to attend to them, has been widely circulated and many have pointed to the timing of the strike as unfortunate.
Health services being under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, the Union Health Secretary had cited an order of the Delhi High Court that said there should be no disruption of nursing work in AIIMS.
Non-compliance will also be treated as offence under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code, the health secretary said, adding, "Action will be taken against defaulting authorities and employees".