New Delhi: Two nurses, who sacrificed their lives to save patients in the AMRI Hospital fire in Kolkata in December last, were among 36 meritorious nursing personnel who were honoured by President Pratibha Patil on International Nurses Day on Saturday.
This is the first time that the National Florence Nightingale Nurses Awards were presented posthumously. The two nurses, Vineetha P K and Remya Rajappan, hailed from Kerala.
Vineetha P K`s father and Remya Rajappan`s mother accepted the award from the President at a solemn ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.
Acknowledging the contribution of nursing to health care, President Patil said nurses are frontline providers of medical assistance and information.
"You are crucial for providing medical care. Nursing is not only a profession and a career. It is service to humanity," she said addressing the gathering.
As the nation achieves success in health sector by helping increase life expectancy and eradication of some endemic diseases, Patil said there is much work ahead to achieve the goal of health for all.
"It is still work in progress," she said.
She also exhorted male nurses to take up the noble service.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the role of nurses, midwives and lady health visitors in prevention of disease and health promotion activities cannot be under estimated, while listing out a number of steps to improve healthcare system in the country.
He said, "The award, consisting of Rs 50,000 cash prize, a certificate and a medal, is a rare honour in recognition of selfless hard work, commitment and extra-ordinary perseverance in the course of performance of duties by the nurses."
Recognizing the contribution of nurses in improving the healthcare system of our country, the Minister said a number of steps have been taken to strengthen the nursing sector, which includes giving a boost to nursing education.
He said during the last two years, the Health Ministry has sanctioned 269 ANM and GNM schools across the country, particularly in the un-served and under-served districts.
"These schools will train an additional 20,000 nurses every year. Six nursing colleges are also being established at new AIIMS and these will be functional next year," he said.
He added that the Ministry has also decided to provide financial assistance for upgrading all nursing schools into Colleges of Nursing attached to government medical colleges.
He noted that to increase the number of nurses and teaching faculty, the student-patient ratio has been changed from 1:5 to 1:3; age of retirement for nursing teaching faculty has been raised to 70 years and admission to married candidates has been allowed in nursing courses.
Among those who were bestowed with the National Florence Nightingale Awards 2012 are Naw Lachu Ahtee, Sunita R Dhonde, Harbans Batra, Agrawal Dinesh Satish Kumar, Suresh Kumari, Rehana Akhter, Aruna Kumari Sinha, V G Padmini, Usha Dinkar Talele, S Hoikholhing, Udasi Sahu, Sheela, R Geetha, Petsy R Massey, Subrata Das, Bhawani Dev, Sujatha Surendran, Jayasri Maiti, Brig Tshering Khendo Bhutia and Satwant Kaur.
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S Gandhiselvan noted that exceptiona contributions displayed by the meritorious winners will become the driving forces for the new generation.
Though appreciating the progress made by the country over the years in healthcare sector, Patil said more efforts were required to improve medical facilities for underprivileged women and children especially in the rural areas.
"Access to and affordability of health care especially for the underprivileged and marginalised sections of society, in particular women and children, remain tasks where much work is required," she said.
The winners also include seven Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, two health workers from rural parts of Odisha and Uttarakhand.