GUWAHATI, Nov 30 - As the strike by the All Assam Nurses� Association paralysed medical services across the State for over four days, the State government has set in motion plans to create a pool of additional contractual nurses in about a week�s time.
While the process to fill up the 700-odd existing vacancies in NHM began on Thursday night itself, the government is contemplating to utilise the services of retired nurses who have not attained 65 years of age.
�We are also roping in the services of BSc final year students and also shift the contractual nurses in the peripheries to the critical centres. This will be done immediately. In fact the process has already started,� a health department official told The Assam Tribune.
�The people have suffered too much. Many people have died due to non-availability of nurses in government hospitals. We are not taking any more chances. We need to create a secondary force to deal with such situations,� the official added.
Currently, there are 2,051 vacancies of regular nurses in district hospitals and 1,600 in medical colleges.
In the next one week, the government intends to recruit some 1,200 contractual nurses. There are around 600 retired nurses who have not attained 65 years. The government feels it can get the services of some 200 of them.
Meanwhile on Friday, confusion surrounded the status of the strike by the nurses� association.
While association president Anjana Saikia on Thursday night announced withdrawal of the agitation after the government agreed to address �95 per cent of their demands�, the association�s general secretary Junu Chutia Dihingia refused to toe her line alleging that the president was playing into the hands of government officials.
The government on Thursday night agreed to examine the association�s demand for enhancement of grade pay of nurses with diploma qualification and the issue relating to nomenclature of nursing staff.
As the faultlines appeared in the agitating nurses� body, Saikia offered to quit her post. While both the association leaders did not respond to phone calls on Friday evening, it was learnt that most of the nurses joined their duties as the day progressed.
Officials from both MMCH and GMCH said the services were normal in the evening.
A GMCH official said the agitating nurses tried to prevent others, including students from working in the hospitals. �The nurses have the right to air their grievances without disrupting the hospitals' functioning. Health service is under essential services. They cannot disrupt the system,� the official said.
�The strike did not affect the GMCH�s functioning as there was adequate manpower to fill the void created by the agitating nurses,� the official added.