Hyderabad: Patient care took a further hit at Hyderabad's main COVID-treatment facility, Gandhi Hospital, on Tuesday with 620 Class-4 employees — a category of workers that includes sanitation staff, orderlies, security guards — striking work. The troubled hospital's difficulties have now got worse with 220 contract nurses already on strike for the past five days.
The only silver lining for the hospital authorities was the decision of teaching doctors at government medical colleges in Telangana to put off their strike by a day.
They are demanding pay revision, which has been due since 2016. Telangana Government Doctors Association president Dr Pallam Praveen said the unionn's representatives will meet on Wednesday to chalk out their action plan.
The Class-4 employees and outsourced nurses too are demanding better pay and regularisation of services.
According to one of the striking nurses, M. Sarla, negotiations with the director of medical education, Dr K. Ramesh Reddy, have not gone anywhere. “The director offered us a Rs 25,100 salary and an incentive of Rs 600 per day till the COVID-19 crisis blows over. But the offer was rejected,” she said.
Representative of Class-4 employees said there is a disparity in the wages paid to contract workers and those on the permanent rolls.
Ch. Lakshmi, a sanitation worker who has been employed on contract for 16 years for a wage of Rs 8,500, said, “Those on the government rolls are paid Rs 50,000-60,000 for the same job as I do. They work for 15 days as per COVID-19 norms, while we have to work every day of the month.”
Speaking of her difficulties, Lakshmi said, “Half my salary goes toward house rent. I cannot afford to send my three children to school and so I send them to work. We work in an environment that is dangerous to us as well as to our families but there is no appreciation from the government.”
Kancharla Ravindra Reddy, a sanitation supervisor, said there used to be 185 sanitation workers employed by the hospital previously but many who were close to 60 years left fearing COVID-19. Some who had small children at home also quit.
“When we ask for the same incentives as those paid to other workers, we are told we don’t fall in that category. Those who are on government rolls don’t even do half of the work we contract workers do. Many of us, in addition to really hard work, also have to face discrimination for working at a COVID-19 hospital,” he said.