Opposing the ‘sudden’ transfer of two senior male nurses from the Ramanathapuram headquarters hospital to taluk units in the district, about 50 nurses resorted to a demonstration by sitting in front of the Government Hospital on Friday morning.

Representatives of the agitating nurses, affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Nurses Association (Ramanathapuram branch), told journalists that substandard food was served to quarantined nurses, who had worked in the COVID-19 ward. “Last week, two of our colleagues complained of vomiting and diarrhoea,” a nurse alleged, adding that authorities had dismissed the issue.

The nurses said that they had a strong suspicion that those who questioned the quality of food have been shifted out of the hospital. They charged that two senior staff nurses were “unilaterally” transferred to hospitals in Tiruvadanai and Rameswaram, which do not have isolation wards. The transfers have come at a time when more people from different parts of the district have tested positive for COVID-19 and are approaching the GH, they alleged.

According to the protesting nurses, this was an attempt to force the employees to remain silent and not raise their voices. An office-bearer of the association, requesting anonymity, said they were on a sit-in protest adhering to physical distancing, and with face masks. The agitating nurses also said that only those who were not on duty were participating in the demonstration.

The office-bearer said that the transfers at a time when there is a shortage of staff with many nurses recently testing positive after attending to patients in the isolation ward here, has added pressure and has created panic among other nurses. Now, those in attendance had to work for long hours.

When contacted, an officer in-charge of the hospital administration said that the transfer of the two male nurses was a routine one and for administrative reasons. The complaint that the food was sub-standard had been immediately attended to by officials responsible last week itself. There was no other issue, he maintained.

Last month, some of the patients in the isolation ward here staged a demonstration complaining that face masks were not given to them. There was also absence of physical distancing due to a rush in the admission at the in-patient wards. The food, they alleged, was substandard. They even claimed that only those in-patients who paid, were given face-masks. After media reports, officials then provided 10 face masks to each patient on admission. The food was also tested and tasted before they were served.

Presently, there are 170 in-patients in the isolation ward here, an official said.

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