In a tactful move to deal with the statewide protest by nurses demanding salary hike, private hospitals in Kerala declared that they will be shutting down t hospitals from Monday onwards. The decision was taken in a meeting of Private Hospitals Management Association held on Thursday.
The association, meanwhile, made it clear that only general and private OPDs will be shut and intensive care units (ICU) will be functional.
Nurses in the state had started a protest from 28 June seeking pay hike along with several other demands. So far several rounds of discussions had been held between representatives of nurses' associations and Hospital management and nurses have not agreed with the settlement equation put forward by the managements.
Responding to the decision, Kerala health minister KK Shailaja said that the government would act strongly against private hospitals if they go ahead with the decision.
“Such moves can not be tolerated at a time various epidemics are spreading across the state. Kerala government stand in this episode is pro nurses”, she said.
She also said that both the managements and nurses should show responsibility and should not play with the health of people in the state.
Earlier the day, Shailaja asked nurses to stop their protest and start working as the government increased the basic salary for them. However, nurses' association said the hike is meagre and they are not ready to settle with that.
The United Nurses Association (UNA) has also announced a full-scale strike in private hospitals from 17 July demanding Rs 20,000 as basic pay. The protest, the organisation held last Tuesday, was a huge success as thousands of nurses turned out. The protesters have also made it clear that the hospitals which have agreed to pay the above basic pay will be exempted from the strike.
Kerala government intervened in the issue and decided to hold talks with agitating nurses.
The opposition parties urged the government to ensure decent wages to the nurses working in private hospitals, who play a significant role in the state's health sector.
"Even the construction workers are getting Rs 900-1000 as daily wages in the state. At the same time, nurses, who are involved in life-saving activities, are given only Rs 400-500 as daily wage," opposition leader has said.
The opposition also claimed that the state government was not implementing the law, despite repeated directives of the Supreme Court in this regard.