The Delhi High Court has ordered the national capital government to improve the working conditions of nurses in the state.
The Supreme Court had earlier called on the Delhi government to take recommendations on board calling on improvements to be made in the working conditions of nurses in private hospitals in the national capital. A government committee made the recommendations in the wake of nursing associations appealing to the Supreme Court for improvements in their working conditions. “Their pay and working conditions is really pathetic and some steps are required to be taken to uplift the standard of working conditions in respect of nurses,” the committee stated at the time.
The advice of the committees included a minimum pay of Rs 20,000 for nurses in private hospitals (the average wage for a staff nurse in Delhi is Rs 25,000). Additional benefits such as accommodation, leave, and transportation equitable of those to nurses in government-run facilities were also advised. These would apply for any nurse working in a facility with less than fifty beds.
The Director-General of Health Services for Delhi did order the same, as standing counsel Sanjay Ghose informed the court. However, the order was challenged at the time by private hospital associations who argued that the pay increases would threaten their ability to operate. This was rejected by the High Court: a two-justice bench of Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar instructed the state government to effect the measures “in accordance with law and as early as possible and practicable.”
Working conditions for Delhi’s nurses has been an issue of contention for some time. Last year, more than 350 privately-employed nurses went on strike in the national capital in protest of their working conditions. They called for minimum wage, recruitment of sufficient staffing levels, and benefits such as maternity leave and insurance cover. With the Delhi government now under High Court order to implement the Supreme Court’s instructions, it can be hoped that such action will not be necessary for nurses to undertake in future.