The joint action council led by Kerala Government Medical College Teachers' Association (KGMCTA) has called off the indefinite strike they had announced from October 7 following Health Minister K K Shailaja's assurance that the suspension of a senior doctor and two head nurses would be reconsidered on the basis of the report of the Director of Medical Education, which would be submitted on October 6.
The assurance was given during a meeting the minister had convened to settle the issue in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
Dr Aruna, Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital's COVID-19 nodal officer, and two head nurses of the MCH were suspended after worms were found on a bedsore wound of a discharged COVID patient. The minister herself had then questioned why the patient was discharged before his bedsore was healed.
It was a preliminary probe by the Director of Medical Education and the medical college superintendent that had found serious negligence on the part of those in charge of the COVID ward.
The suspensions, however, were viewed as highly provocative by the healthcare staff, and on October 2, the doctors and the nursing staff of the MCH, Thiruvananthapuram, launched strong protest measures, including the boycott of OP clinics for two hours from 8am to 10am and a relay hunger strike. Online classes for medical students were also stopped.
In solidarity with Dr Aruna, COVID-19 nodal officers of other medical colleges in Thrissur, Kozhikode and Ernakulam also submitted their resignations.
The KGMCTA also announced that it would boycott non-COVID OP clinics and stop online classes across Kerala from October 7 if the suspensions were not revoked by Monday.
According to agitating doctors and nurses, a senior doctor and two nurses who were working round the clock to save lives were punished for what is fundamentally the failure of the system.
During the meeting on Monday, the representatives of doctors and nurses told the minister of the acute staff shortage plaguing medical colleges across the state. Post COVID-19, the minister was told that one person was forced to do the work of five to six people in medical colleges. Serious administrative failures were also pointed out.
It is said that Ward 6, where the COVID patient was allegedly abandoned, was a large ward with over 60 patients and just four nursing assistants to take care of all of them. There are no bystanders either as COVID-19 protocol prohibits outside presence.
Apart from revoking the suspensions, the other major demands of health workers include staff strengthening measures, and the immediate withdrawal of two government decisions: one, no more seven-day off for taking 10-day COVID duty, and two, salary cut for health workers.