The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Nurses Union put out a statement on 10 January, urging the director of the institution to "stick on to the previous protocols" that helped nurses successfully fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The "previous protocol" being referred to was included in the minutes of a meeting of the Nurses Union with the AIIMS director that was held on 9 June 2020.
Asserting that "nurses are not Guinea Pigs," and that the union, in no way, would tolerate any move that would jeopardise their health, the statement also said that this was "not the time to experiment."
The full statement is attached below.
The minutes of the June 2020 meeting talk about a variety of ways in which the working conditions of the nurses can be improved.
Some of the points that were agreed upon in the meeting were:
Rotation of 25 percent of on-COVID duty staff to non-COVID area every two weeks.
Six hourly shifts for nurses, which included the donning/doffing of PPE and the handover in the wards by nursing personnel.
Improvement of infection control mechanisms.
Transportation service for nursing staff between 11 am and 6 pm between the main hospital and the Powergrid Vishram Sadan.
Harish Kajla, the president of the union, had raised alarm in mid-2020 about the physically and mentally taxing six-hour shifts of the nurses, which was causing weight loss and vomiting, and even causing many of them to faint.
"More than 500 nurses in AIIMS Jhajjar, AIIMS trauma centre, and C6 and D6 of AIIMS are on COVID-19 duty. It is very difficult to work while wearing PPE kits as you sweat extensively as the PPE is airtight. And you can’t eat, drink, or even go to the bathroom,” Mr Kajla was quoted by The Hindu on a report dated 3 June 2020, a week before the union's meeting with the director.
He had further said that "nurses have been working six-hour shifts, wearing PPE kits for more than two months now, and it is affecting their health. Women can’t even change sanitary pads while on six-hour duty as they are wearing PPE kits."
(With inputs from The Hindu.)