Cuttack, Nov. 1: The healthcare services at the SCB Medical College and Hospital tripped this morning for six hours, as the fourth grade employees went on a strike. But the agitation was called off in the evening, much to the relief of the patients and their attendants.
The 1,707-bed hospital plunged into chaos and the suffering of the patients mounted, as they day progressed. But the sweepers, ward attendants, dressers and stretchersbearers finally called off their strike in the afternoon when the authorities agreed to put the transfer order on hold. But those six to seven hours since morning were a nightmare for both patients and their attendants.
“I arrived here around 11am with a relative, who has suffered severe head injuries in a road mishap. But neither the doctors nor the nurses at the casualty ward tried to stitch his wound,” said Saubhagya Swain, who had come all the way from Jajpur.
Though the patient was administered painkillers and was put on a saline drip, the doctors said dressing and stitching was not possible right away because of the strike.
The surgery department was the worst affected by the agitation because there was no one to dress the wounds of the patients till afternoon.
“I was admitted here yesterday after I met with a road accident but they are yet to clean and dress my wounds,” said Prafulla Kar, 37, a patient from Athgarh.
Keshav Das, 38, ran from pillar to post looking for stretcher bearers to carry his ailing father from the outpatient department to the X-ray room. “I had to call three friends to help me carry my father after his check-up at the outpatient department,” said Das.
The strike, led by the Odisha Medical Employees Association, to protest the transfer of 610 of the 750 fourth-grade employees at the hospital, also hit other services.
The problems of the hospital authorities multiplied with Mediaid Marketing Services, a private agency that has been outsourced the job of laundering the hospital linen, stopped operating the laundry plant on the campus saying that bills had not been paid. Consequently, the wards did not get fresh bed sheets, nor did doctors and nurses receive fresh supply of clothes at the operation theatres.
“We are yet to receive payment against bills amounting to nearly Rs 37 lakh. Though the authorities had earlier agreed to release 40 per cent of the amount, we haven’t received any money,” said Kailash Chandra Mishra, Mediaid Marketing Services manager. He said he had already informed the hospital authorities that the bio-medical waste treatment plant would be shut from November 7 if the agency’s arrears were not cleared.
The striking employees described the mass transfer decision as arbitrary. “We had to resort to this agitation because the move is aimed at harassing the employees,” said Odisha Medical Employees Association vice-president Jugal Kishore Nayak.
He said only 750 fourth grade employees remained in the hospital after 211 posts were abolished in 1999. The number has not gone up despite an increase in the hospital’s bed capacity.
The hospital authorities, however, sought to put up a brave face and claimed that the strike had not affected services. They also denied charges levelled against them by the Class IV employees.
“It is not mass transfer as alleged by employees. This is just a reshuffle order in keeping with the government notification for the three medical college hospitals of the state,” said hospital administrator Sanjita Das. He said the move was aimed at instilling discipline among the employees and enhancing their efficiency.
However, the decision has been put in abeyance following an instruction from the revenue divisional commissioner. “We resumed work after the transfer order was put on hold following a discussion between our representatives and hospital officials,” said Class IV employees’ general secretary Pravakar Palei.