Patients admitted in public hospitals across Karachi and other cities of Sindh continued to suffer on Tuesday, as the sit-in of nurses of these government facilities entered its second day.
The protesters gathered outside the Karachi Press Club under the banner of the Joint Nurses Action Committee (JNAC), which comprises the Provincial Nurses Association and the Private School Nursing Association.
The nurses shouted slogans against the Sindh government and its health department. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with their demands, they vowed to continue their demonstration until their demands are met.
Additional Health Secretary Jamaluddin Jalalani, Grand Democratic Alliance MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal lawmaker Syed Abdur Rasheed and many others visited the press club to negotiate with the protesters.
They expressed solidarity with the nurses, while government officials urged the protesters to call off their strike and go back to their respective hospitals to take care of their patients. Officials at the Civil Hospital Karachi, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, the National Institute of Child Health and other public health facilities in the city said that many scheduled surgical procedures had to be cancelled. However, emergency rooms and intensive care units remained functional.
The nurses’ protest has worsened patient care at almost all major Sindh government hospitals. The visiting and admitted patients had to suffer as the outpatient departments and wards remained largely non-functional due to the absence of the nurses.
Young Nurses Association Sindh President Aijaz Ali Kaleri said the protest demonstration and sit-in would continue until the acceptance and implementation of their 10 demands. He said the nurses would announce their future course of action this Thursday after consultation.
A delegation of the Young Doctors Association Sindh led by Dr Omer Sultan also visited the protesting nurses’ camp. They criticised the health department for ignoring the nursing profession.
A day earlier Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho had said that she respects nurses and is ready to accept their legitimate demands, but she made it clear that she would not be blackmailed, as some of their demands are completely unacceptable.
“I’m willing to accept their legitimate demands regarding salaries, promotions and working conditions, but some of their demands, like promoting them to 22nd grade, are unacceptable,” Dr Azra said told a news conference at her office. She said nursing is a part of essential services so the people associated with the profession should not be boycotting their duties, as it would create problems for patients.