Goa nurses protest ‘differential’ punishment, threaten strike


Panaji : A nurses association in Goa Thursday threatened to go on strike in protest the “differential” punishment by the state health minister to two nurses employed in different government facilities.

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During a surprise visit to the Goa Medical College Wednesday, Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane ordered the suspension of senior nurse Sandhya Pednekar for using torn linen in the paediatric ward.

However, nurses complained that another nurse at the Valpoi Health Centre – in Rane’s constituency – was let off with a “mere warning” after she administered Dettol to a three-month-old baby in place of polio drops. The baby had to be admitted to hospital after consuming the antiseptic liquid.

Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI)’s Goa unit president Anita Fernandes told IANS that there was unrest among the state’s nurses over the health minister’s actions.

“This is all that the health minister can see? Does he know the real state of administrative affairs at Goa’s best government hospital? There have been cases where rats have eaten limbs of patients, especially children, when they are admitted in our wards. Despite our complaints, the administration has done nothing. We will go on an all-Goa strike if she (Sandhya) is suspended. We will paralyse Goa,” Fernandes said.

Another nurse, Rosita Barretto, accused the health minister of cashing in on the trivial, instead of really tackling the bigger administrative issues.

Rane’s “surprise” visit to the premier state-run health facility had been carefully coordinated by the state information and publicity department, which had alerted media houses to dispatch their representatives to cover the visit, with promises of “some action”.

The surprise visit comes a few days after the opposition criticised the health minister for the Dettol-for-polio drops controversy in his own constituency and the lack of disciplinary action against the erring staff.

Following the surprise check, nurses at the GMC have accused the health minister of playing favourites.

“Most of the people recruited in the health department are from Rane’s constituency Valpoi, which is unfair. And when they make mistakes, there is no action against them,” a senior nurse said.

However, Rane told reporters Thursday that he would evoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if nurses go on strike.

“If they had a problem, they should have brought it to the hospital’s notice. You cannot use torn linen like this. If they go on strike, I will evoke the ESMA. Threats like this will not work. I will terminate all of them,” he said.