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As nurses, paramedics strike, 'North MCD hospitals in crisis' to skip V-day

New Delhi: North MCD's Hindu Rao Hospital, where a dry run of the COVID-19 inoculation process was held last week, will not be a vaccination site on Saturday, which is the first day of the Covaxin and Covishield vaccines being administered in India.

"In those hospitals where we are facing a bit of a crisis, we will try to start the vaccination process by January 18 since we will be unable to do so by the 16th", North MCD Mayor Jai Prakash said on Friday evening.

The crisis that Jai Prakash is referring to is that nurses, paramedics and cleaning staff of the largest hospital under North Delhi Municipal Corporation have been on strike since January 7 due to salaries pending for over three months.

"Hindu Rao has not been removed from the list of vaccination sites. However, the vaccine will not be administered there on 16th. We may provide the vaccine there on the 17th or 18th, depending on the DM's orders. Our nursing, paramedical and cleaning staff have assured us that whenever vaccination starts at Hindu Rao hospital, whether on 17th or 18th or later, they will be present for duty", the Mayor added.

However, contrary to his claims, nurses at the hospital said that they have not received salaries for the months of October, November and December. After repeated demands for their pending salaries, they finally "had to go on strike to make their voice heard", as a senior nurse at the hospital said.

Indumati Jamwal, head of the Nurses Union said "except for 3 or 4 nurses (who are not on strike), no one is going to work and the hospital is next to non-functional". "We shall continue to be on strike till we receive our dues", she said.

Confirming the hospital's diminished functioning, a senior doctor at Hindu Rao said that only OPD services are still ongoing while any critical cases are being referred to other hospitals and inpatient services are completely shut down except for a handful for critical patients who risk losing their life if there is any attempt to move/transport them to another facility. "Even though a dry run of the vaccination process was held here, it is not possible to go through a full inoculation process without nursing, paramedical or cleaning staff", another resident doctor said.

Talking about the MCDs decision to make the vaccine available for its healthcare workers, a senior doctor from the hospital said "unless efficacy results and other data/reports about the vaccine is not made available in the public domain, I will not take the vaccine myself. At least there is some data available about Serum Institute's Covishield vaccine, but next to nothing is known about Bharat Biotech's Covaxin vaccine. On top of that, I cannot even choose which vaccine I want. How can I trust the process in such a situation?"

On unpaid salaries of staff from the North and East MCDs, both mayors issued a joint statement, saying that the Delhi government's statement on giving Rs 900 crore to the MCDs was just lip-service.

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