New Delhi: Services at several hospitals in the national capital were severely affected as government nurses went on a country-wide indefinite strike today, at a time when Delhi and many other cities are grappling with rising cases of dengue and chikungunya.
The massive protest has been called by the All India Government Nurses Federation and the Delhi Nurses Federation seeking redressal of issues related to pay and allowances.
About 20,000 nurses from government hospitals in Delhi, including those run by the Centre, the city government or civic bodies have joined the agitation, severely affecting the functioning of hospitals and delivery of services.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government today invoked the stringent ESMA declaring as illegal the nurses' stir.
"The LG has approved the government's proposal to invoke ESMA against the agitating nurses," a top official said.
The Essential Services Maintenance Act allows the government to declare a strike illegal in public interest.
The strike has hit patients the hardest, as most of the routine operations were cancelled, OPD timings were curtailed and emergency services were also affected.
"No routine surgeries have taken place and elective surgeries have been postponed at our hospital. We are managing with interns and contractual nurses as not a single regular nurse is on work. We have been badly affected," said Dr Vikram Bhaskar of Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital.
The child hospital which runs under the central government's Lady Hardinge Medical College gets about 1,000 OPD patients and one could see visible fall in the services for shortage of staff, he said.
Situation was similar at RML Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital and Delhi government hospitals like Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital and Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital with many surgeries being rescheduled and OPD timings affected.
Municipal hospitals like Hindu Rao and Kasturba Hospital too bore the brunt of the strike.
The nation-wide agitation has come at a time when Delhi and several other cities across the country are battling rising cases of dengue and chikungunya.
At least 487 cases of dengue have so far been reported in the national capital this season, with 368 of them being recorded last month. Eight deaths due to it have also been reported. At least 432 people have been diagnosed with chikungunya in Delhi so far.
"As we had announced, we are attending to emergency and critical cases only. But from Sunday, that too will stop if our demands are not met. Besides Delhi, nurses in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Puducherry and south India, among other places joined the protest," All India Government Nurses Federation spokesperson Liladhar Ramchandani told PTI.
About 60 nurses for RML Hospital were detained this morning for obstructing work, police said.