Kochi, Aug 16: God's own country, Kerala witnessed some tense moments on Independence Day when three nurses climbed atop the terrace of the Mar Baselious Hospital, at Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district threatening to commit suicide. The nurses evoked some nail biting drama when they warned onlookers and hospital administration that they would jump off the terrace if their demands are not met.
The nurses are still on the terrace braving the sun and rain. A hartal has been declared in Kothamangalam expressing support for the nurses demands. The nurses have been on a strike since last 114 days. Police and fire brigade personnel are on standby to ward off any untoward incidents. A crowd had gathered near the hospital shouting slogans against the hospital management.
The District Collector's meeting called to solve the issue had failed creating a pensive atmosphere and there is no solution in sight for the drama being played out in full public view. The hospital administration failed to turn up for the discussions after keeping everybody waiting till 2 am. They finally gave out their stand through a phone call stating that they will not be able to make permanent all the staff working on a labour bond contract. The stand angered the nurses and gave more support to the agitation from the public.
The hospital administration maintains that the nurse staff are being paid adequately and that the issue was earlier resolved after the Labour department intervened. The Labour Minister, Shibu Baby John also echoed similar views on the burning issue.
The three nurses are deep in debt and this action has been taken out of mere desperation since one of the nurses have not been able to pay back the dues for the educational loan taken for her studies. With a meagre salary and trying to make ends meet, the bank was getting ready to seize one of the nurses' house as part of recovery proceedings.
Among the main demands made by the nurses include the implementation of established working hour norms, shift system and cessation of dismissal of nurses by management under the pretext of some contract conditions.
Controversy had erupted earlier when the nurses claimed that the hospital secretary Shibu Kuriakose had taken obscene pictures of the nurses through a hidden camera placed in the washrooms and had threatened to make them public. The matter was revealed through a press conference organized by the Indian Nurses Association (INA) office bearers.