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"Nursing their grievances"

October 4, 2007 -- Today The Hindu (India) reported that the Pondicherry Government Nurses Association had staged a protest about poor staffing at government hospitals and other issues raised in a "13-point charter of demands." The piece indicates that critical care nurses in most of these hospitals have to care for six patients each, and that one medical-surgical unit nurse had 40-50 patients--dangerously low ratios by any measure. Although the piece might have explored the causes and effects of this situation in far more detail, we thank The Hindu for the article.

The piece reports that the "Staff Inspection Unit" has set nurse staffing norms of 1:6 for medical-surgical units and 1:1 for critical care units. However, the piece suggests that the units suffer from the abysmal staffing noted above, "owing to a shortage of staff in a majority of Government hospitals." The Association's Secretary, M. Cadirvelou, says that nurses cannot take leave because the staffing is so poor. The piece might have included some response from the government on the staffing issue. It might also have explored why the staffing seems to be so bad, as well as what if any measures have been proposed to address it. Is there funding for more nurses? Are international and internal nurse migration factors? In any case, the reported staffing ratios appear to be unsafe and a prescription for nursing burnout, and we applaud the nurses for advocating for their patients and themselves.

The report briefly mentions some of the nurses' other "demands." It says the nurses want "the re-designation of nursing posts as in Jawaharial Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education Research." Other reported demands include an increase in the nurses' "special allowance," the "regularisation of the nurses appointed on adhoc basis, introduction of proper transfer policy, accommodation facility for nurses working in Government Hospitals and establishment of separate Nurses Registration Council in Puducherry." The piece might have benefited from some explanation of these demands.

The article includes a photo (above) of the Association nurses staging a protest outside Puducherry Hospital. It says they have also threatened to "go on a mass casual leave" at the end of October. The photo caption is "Nursing their grievances." That's cute, but we wish the media would reduce its broad use of the word "nursing" to mean any kind of unskilled tending, which reinforces the common view that nursing is something almost anyone could do, rather than a specific, skilled profession.

On the whole, we thank The Hindu for reporting on this nursing advocacy.

See the article "Nurses stage demonstration" from The Hindu from October 4, 2007.

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