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The Times of India, May 09 2016
Sumitra Deb Roy
Nursing brain drain in Maha as emigration hits 5-yr high
At a time when the Indian government has locked horns with doctors over their right to settle in the US permanently , emigration among nurses in Maharashtra has touched a T five-year high in 2015-16. d The last financial year saw a 93% jump in the number of nurses leaving for an international placement when compared to 2010-11.
Statistics collated by the Maharashtra Nursing Council (MNC) that issues NOCs to nurses taking up global placements revealed around 1,567 nurses left the country in 201516, as against 814 five years ago or 920 in 2013-14. It has also emerged that the US and the UK are no longer the most favoured destinations since a significant majority of them took up jobs in Ireland, Aus tralia and New Zealand that offered annual pay packages in the range of Rs 30-50 lakh.
Estimates suggest 25,000 trained nurses across India leave every year for better pay ing jobs.Even the Centre's noti fication of April 2015 banning private agencies from recruit ing nurses for overseas jobs failed to make a significant im pact in Maharashtra. The or der has hit even traditional hubs like Kerala, which saw over a 60% decline in international placements last year.
Maharashtra, too, witnessed a slowdown like Kerala, but not a drastic dip. It managed to register a 2% annual rise in nurses accepting foreign jobs in 2015-16 (1,567) from 2014-15 (1,532), though in previous years the year-onyear increase in international placements ranged from 1770%. “There was a temporary slowdown in recruitments due to the order from the Centre but nurses from Maharashtra still got good offers,“ said Ramling Mali, president of MNC. “The UK has started asking for a higher TOEFL score (English proficiency test) of 7.5 instead of previous 6.5. Many nurses in Maharashtra are finding it difficult to clear the test,“ said Mangala Anchan, registrar of MNC.
Salaries, working conditions
In Delhi, 2019; 2011-19
Employing an electrician or plumber in Delhi for less than Rs 17,000 a month would be illegal, but most private hospitals and nursing homes in Delhi pay nurses less. Even the biggest hospitals pay less than half of what the Delhi government pays its nurses.
The minimum monthly wage for skilled workers in Delhi is Rs 16,962. The big corporate hospitals barely pay this to entry level nurses while smaller ones pay as little as Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000. The basic salary of a newly recruited nurse in central and Delhi government facilities is now about Rs 45,000 plus house rent, transport and dearness allowances, adding up to anything between Rs 60,000 and Rs 70,000.
An expert committee appointed on Supreme Court direction and headed by the Director General of Health Services recommended in 2016 that hospitals with more than 200 beds should pay nurses the same salary as government hospitals and those with less than 50 beds a minimum of Rs 20,000 for a freshly recruited nurse. In its order, the apex court had said, “We feel that the nurses who are working in private hospitals and nursing homes are not being treated fairly in the matter of their service conditions and pay.” It left it to the committee to look into the specifics.
“Forget the consolidated salary, these hospitals are not ready to match even the basic pay of a government nurse. The high attrition rate in private hospitals, and thus poorly trained nurses and substandard nursing services, is because they refuse to pay decent living wages. That is why most of them also run nursing colleges because student nurses provide cheap labour,” said Rince Joseph, national working president of United Nurses Association (UNA).
Nurses’ unions point out that nurses are not merely skilled labourers but professionals and hence actually ought to be paid more. The BSc nursing degree is a four-year course open only to those who have scored at least 50% in physics, chemistry and biology in Class XII. Diploma courses are for three years and have more relaxed entry criteria.
The Association of Healthcare Providers (India), whose members are 47 big hospitals (100 to 650 beds), including the biggest corporate chains, has filed cases in Delhi high court to prevent the implementation of the expert committee’s recommendations. The association told the court that its members were ready to pay nurses Rs 20,000 per month.
According to UNA, some corporate hospitals, which were paying Rs 16,000 earlier, raised it to Rs 19,800 after Delhi government raised minimum wages a couple of months back. However, they simultaneously raised hostel fees for the nurses, thus negating much of the raise.
After issuing an order in June 2018 seeking implementation of the recommendations within three months, Delhi government has failed to pursue the matter, stated UNA. The AHPI’s repeated attempts to get the Delhi government order stayed have failed as Delhi high court upheld it. “We have tried peaceful protest at Jantar Mantar. Now we have no option but to step up the agitation,” said Joseph.