Services of 1,640 nurses, recruited as front-line warriors during the COVID-19 pandemic, terminated in Telangana

Published : July 08, 2021 19:02 IST

Some of the terminated nurses during a protest at Tank Bund in Hyderabad on July 7. Photo: G. RAMAKRISHNA

 

With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Telangana rapidly receding, the K. Chandrasekhar Rao government has terminated the services of more than 1,600 outsourced nurses working in various government hospitals across the State by a government order dated July 5. A nurse lamented to Frontline that the government was throwing them out of their jobs “after using their services during the COVID-19 pandemic” and that the government’s action had put them and their families in a deep crisis.

These nurses were recruited on a one-year contract in March 2020 when the State was hit by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even as their one-year contract was ending, Telangana was hit by the second wave and the nurses’ services continued to be used and they were promised another one-year extension. However, that has not materialised. On the contrary, starting July 6, Superintendents of various dispensaries and hospitals asked these nurses not to report for work. They were informed that they were being fired as per the Director of Medical Education’s (DME’s) order.

The government’s overnight decision to terminate the services of these front-line warriors has exploded on to the streets of Telangana’s capital Hyderabad, with the affected nurses holding demonstrations in front of the DME’s office and attempting to lay siege to Pragati Bhawan, the official residence of the Chief Minister. The large contingent of police personnel present managed to thwart the nurses’ attempt to march towards Pragati Bhawan, but only after some tense moments. The protesting nurses raised slogans against the government and were chased down by policewomen and physically lifted and carted away in police vehicles.

Demanding that they be reinstated, the nurses have alleged that they were given no notice about the government’s decision to remove them from service.

The government’s contention is that since the nurses were recruited only on a temporary basis, they cannot claim the job as a right. According to Dr K. Ramesh Reddy, DME, these nurses were aware of the fact that their posts were only temporary and therefore they cannot be considered for the 1,640 permanent nursing positions that the government is currently looking to fill. The government’s stand, as spelt out by Dr Ramesh Reddy, is that these nurses had filled nursing positions temporarily in a pandemic year.

The genesis of the nursing recruitment imbroglio can be traced to a permanent recruitment order issued by the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) in 2017, when 1,640 permanent nursing positions were announced. However, recruitment was put on hold after some contractual staff in hospitals demanded that they be given an extra weightage in the recruitment process and sought directions from the High Court. The issue was only recently legally untangled. The DME said that some of the nurses who had applied in 2017 have been recruited based on their seniority. Others who have not applied in 2017 cannot now be recruited. However, the DME has announced that he would be proposing to the government to provide these nurses with some sort of weightage for the services that they rendered during the pandemic. The government has also said that it will shortly announce a recruitment drive for nurses in government-run medical colleges.

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