Following reports of Manipuri nurses leaving hospitals in Kolkata amid COVID19 pandemic went viral on social media, a Kolkata-based organisation of Manipuri people, Manipuris in Kolkata (MIK), has expressed its views regarding the issue.
Gp Capt (Retd) Kshetrimayum Shyamkesho Singh, the president of Manipuris in Kolkata (MIK), in a statement, said: “At Kolkata, there are approximately 1,200 nurses working in different hospitals and health service providers.”
They are part of a total of approximately 3,500 Manipuri people at Kolkata.
Claiming that nurses from Manipur are well known for their high level of dedication and forms the backbone of health care services at Kolkata, MIK said: “The Manipuri nurses are also well sought after by international community for their sincerity.”
“We are very proud that majority of the Manipuri nurses at Kolkata are still working sincerely & relentlessly 24/7 in support of the people of West Bengal in fighting Covid-19.”
The statement said only about 300 nurses, including nurses under training and fresh nurses, out of 1,200 approximate total nurses, left Kolkata.
“Many of them did not want to leave, but they have been forced to return home by compelling circumstances & many odds,” it said.
Recently, there have been various social and media reports about the Manipuri nurses leaving their jobs at Kolkata to return home during this pandemic.
“Often the line taken was, as if, they had abandoned their post and ran away. This is far from the actual ground reality,” said the statement.
“The negativity of these initial reports have somewhat tarnished the image and prestige of Manipuri nurses despite their dedicated service,” MIK president Singh said.
“We sincerely hope that Manipuri nurses will get their justice, their well-deserved respect and the people will acknowledge the invaluable contributions still made by the Manipuri Nurses in the health services West Bengal,” he added.
In the statement, MIK has mentioned a number of reasons of the nurses leaving the city hospitals.
“Recently most of nurses were individually contacted to hear their story,” said the statement.
Based on nurses’ feedback, some of the compelling circumstances for leaving Kolkata are:
Social and security issues –
“After a strenuous long duty at the hospital, when they come home, Manipuri nurses had to undergo multiple social discriminations, primarily due to their oriental features.
“These have increased during the present crisis.
“There has been a case of spitting upon with racial slurs.”
“One would agree that, this is the lowest level of treatment meted out to a creature leave alone a human being. Some have experienced general undignified and intimidating calling derogatory names like “Corona, Corona”.
“Most girls are young and live in small pockets in various localities.
“This has made them feel very unsafe, insecure and uncomfortable. One can put himself on the shoes of these young girls and imagine very well how they feel,” MIK said in the statement.
Social ostracism –
“There have been few occasions when returning home after a prolonged duty they have been refused entry at their own society flat hostel,” MIK said.
“When contacted, even hospital administration did not come for help and police help had to be sought.
“In some cases, they were even refused to use lifts, or not allowed come out to buy essential groceries for food. Due to hostile local environment and apathy from the hospital management, MIK had to intervene and provide them with food items,” said the statement.
Low /No salary issues –
“Some nurses were not paid any salary after their Hospitals were closed,” MIK alleged.
Being in a Metro city, even in normal times, many make their ends meet with difficulty in their months’ salary, the organisation alleged further.
“With no salary, it was becoming very difficult to pay rent and also meet food requirements. Even though they did not want, they had no option but to leave Kolkata in the uncertainty of further income. What else could they have done?”, MIK questioned.
Food shortage during quarantine –
“Some of the hospital administrations were not caring enough to even look after food requirements during quarantine.
“None of these nurses are ration card holders and therefore they would normally not listed as beneficiary in local Govt help for immediate help. Manipur Bhawan officials and MIK had to step in to help them,” it said.
Working environment and professional issues –
“Many were unhappy about an unsafe working environment and unresponsive hospital management when projected with their problems. Most Issues were related to inadequate / inappropriate PPE, masks, gloves, nonstandard safety protocols etc.
“Many felt that they are compromising the patients’ and their own safety.
“On occasions they had to forgo meals and even delay calls of nature to avoid removing PPEs and reusing the same mask. Their repeated grievances were not redressed adequately.
“In some hospitals, nurses complain of unfair distribution of the duties. Here, it is pertinent to note that, in hospitals where management were supportive and prompt in redressing the concerns, no one has left from such hospital. Tata Medical Centre at New Town is one such example,” MIK claimed.
Personal safety and security –
Most of the nurses were sharing hostel rooms up to 8 -10 occupants in a room, MIK claimed.
“After Covid19 cases, there were no segregation of Covid nurses’ transportation and accommodation,” MIK said.
They opined that this had created a situation where infection could easily spread amongst the hostel inmates.
Some also complained of water problems and lack of other basic amenities essential to maintain basic personal hygiene.
“They also complained hospitals not supporting them with Covid-19 tests etc when requested,” MIK said.
Landlord /accommodation issues –
There were few cases where the landlords were not supportive and became uncomfortable to stay. Finding a new accommodation was not possible due to pandemic, it said.
Mental health and depression –
“In some cases, the social discrimination, work pressure, financial issues with no pay, lack of food items, emotional isolation and an insensitive management led to emotional imbalances and depressions. This had weakened their resolve to continue to work here in Kolkata,” MIK stated.
MIK said they had organised multiple zoom video counselling meetings to reach out to them with positive results.
Pre-planned leave –
Some cases were related to already preapproved leave and could not come back due lock down.
Few were pre-planned resignation due to pressing personal issues not related to Covid-19 at all.
Parental anxiety/pressure –
In such a situation, “it is absolutely natural that the parents back home in Manipur were the most worried lot”.
The major concern was safety and security of their children.
Many parents advised their wards to come home for safety reasons.
MIK said few hospitals like Institute of Neurosciences Kolkata, Medica Superspecialty Hospital and RSV Hospital Tollygunge started initiating very positive corrective welfare measures by reaching out to the nurses.
“These are very positive development in the right direction. We sincerely hope all other hospitals managements will address all bugging issues ASAP,” it said.
Most of the social issues can be overcome by proper sensitizing and support from general public and prompt police help whenever required.
“If the working environment is comfortable and one feels safe and secure, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to leave,” said MIK.
“Manipuri nurses at Kolkata always remain dedicated and committed to serving the people of West Bengal in their healthcare services,” MIK president Singh further said.