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Kerala nurses head abroad, crunch in pvt hospitals of state

Kerala nurses are acclaimed globally and there is a huge demand for them. But private hospitals in the state are facing a shortage of nurses for the past year. This is the situation in many hospitals after the Covid crisis.

According to the Kerala Private Hospital Association, most private hospitals in the state are facing a 15 to 20 per cent shortage of nurses. For the past year, every month there are many resignations of trained nurses, and in several instances, they are unable to fill up all the vacancies.

Dr Prem Kiran, joint secretary of KPHA, said, “For the past year, post-Covid, the options for nurses have increased. Many countries have waived off their mandatory norms like a minimum of three years’ experience. Even the fresh pass-outs and experts are getting faster appointments overseas. There is a lot of drain of our trained nursing staff from Kerala.”

Marina Agnes is a nurse working in Kerala for the past three years, but now she is in the process of moving to Ireland. “Here a month’s salary is Rs 20,000, but there in a week, we can make almost a lakh. Here the working period would be 8 or 12 hours but many times we will work more than that. There isn’t any pay for the extra hours, whereas abroad they will pay for the extra hours we work,” she told CNN-News18.

Marina added that before Covid, there were more conditions like a minimum of one to three years of experience required for going to many countries, but now all that has been waived off, and even freshers can apply. “Earlier, to take our family, we had to wait for about 6 months to a year, but now we can take our family along with us whenever we are going. Many countries also prefer us going with our families,” she said.

Marina added that apart from good pay, the work environment is another reason why many of these nurses go abroad. She said, “Here we are not getting proper respect. These hospitals give respect to doctors but not nurses. Here, doctors also scold us, and even sweepers scold us, but we can’t say anything to anyone. Abroad they give proper respect to everyone. The working environment is much better.”

Earlier, the migration of nurses was more to the Gulf countries. But now there is a lot of demand for Kerala nurses in the UK and European countries as well. Since Covid, many countries are giving more importance to the health sector and starting new hospitals, so there is a need for staff.

Not just migration, but due to Covid restrictions, students going outside the state to study nursing were also fewer. This has added to the crisis. The shortage is more of trained nurses in ICUs, theatres, and emergency departments. This is because experienced hands are required to handle the equipment.

The private hospital association has sent representations to the Kerala University of Health Sciences and the state government, explaining the situation. Dr Prem Kiran of KPHA said, “We have requested the government to make some changes in the new nursing college criteria so that new colleges can come in with the private hospitals. The Indian Nursing Council says the criteria for starting a nursing college is about a 100-plus-bedded hospital, whereas in Kerala the condition is that hospitals should be 300-bedded.”

Dr Prem added that one should try to reduce the number of students going outside the state to study and give them the option to study in Kerala itself so it can produce well-trained nursing staff.

State health minister Veena George said that the government has already taken measures to enhance the number of seats and even start new nursing colleges.

“We have given NOCs for new colleges in the private sector and also for enhancement of nursing seats in the private sector. We have given NOCs for 1,100 nursing seats. So for next year, hopefully, we are aiming at starting new institutions, new nursing colleges, paramedical courses, and also PG courses in nursing. So the government is dedicated to preserving the quality of medical education and also giving more opportunities to our students to study inside Kerala.”

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