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Say hello, in right tongue

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 26.05.09
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New Delhi, May 26: Jincy Joseph and Lijy Menon would have still been working as nurses at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals had they greeted each other with “Hello, how are things?”

They did, but in their native Malayalam. “Namaskaram, enthundu visesham.

Jincy and Lijy (names changed), both from Kerala, were dismissed yesterday for speaking in their mother tongue on the hospital premises.

“We greeted each other in the lift lobby in Malayalam and didn’t realise that the nursing superintendent was standing behind us,” Jincy said.

Punishment was instant. Both were banned from entering the ICU of the Cardio Thoracic Vascular Surgery department where they were posted.

“We spent the entire day apologising but were not allowed to enter the ward after that,” Jincy said.

Hospital authorities defended their action, saying speaking in any “native languages” within the premises was strictly prohibited, something the nurses were aware of.

“We cater to an international clientele. Speaking in native languages might jeopardise patient safety, hence we have banned talking in any language other than English while inside the hospital premises,” said public relations officer Parul Chabra.

The hospital insisted that the two employees, both in their twenties, had not been dismissed yet, but both Jincy and Lijy said the authorities had threatened them that they would be thrown out if they didn’t leave by themselves. “We have put in our papers,” Jincy said.

“More than the insult, we are outraged that we don’t have the right to speak in our language. Since we were not near any patients, or even inside the ward, this was not violation of rules as such,” Lijy added.

Both said they agreed with the hospital rule prohibiting conversation in any language other than English in the presence of patients but pointed out that they were in the lift lobby. “And we had not even started our shift yet,” Lijy said.