Alleging that the medical superintendent at Cama And Albless Hospital constantly mistreated them, including falsely accusing them of stealing her jewellery, nurses and ward boys went on a strike yesterday
The state-run Cama And Albless Hospital came to a standstill yesterday, as 200 nurse and 100 ward boys called for an indefinite strike protesting against “mental torture and abuse” allegedly inflicted upon them by the medical superintendent (MS), who had also accused a few staffers of stealing her gold ring just the night before the strike.
With the entire support staff of the hospital declaring an indefinite strike, many patients were left in the lurch. However, the staff resumed their duties in the afternoon, once the directorate of medical education and research (DMER) assured them it would take action in 48 hours.
The last straw
While several of the nurses and ward boys complained that the medical superintendent, Dr Rajshree Katke, had treated them very badly in the four years she has held the post, many agreed that it was the late-night theft accusation on December 1 that finally drove them to the protest.
After a procedure in the operation theatre, around 2.30 am, Dr Katke had reportedly accused nurses and ward boys there of stealing her gold ring, and even threatened them with legal action. She then filed a police complaint about her missing ring, and directed the police to question the staff as well. However, when the ring was found in Katke’s own bag, all hell broke loose.
“We are treated as her personal servants, and she often abused and insulted us. But last night (December 1), Katke made us look like thieves. The incident crushed our self-respect, and we all were questioned for a ring that was later found in her own laptop bag,” said Dhanaji Borule, one of the ward boys present during the incident.
The staff members added that they had resorted to the strike after four years of mental torture by Katke, in the form of constant ill treatment, abusive behaviour and frequent threats of transfers. Nurses complained that she had also forced them to clean hospital premises under the government’s programme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, despite this being a hygiene hazard for patients.
The following morning, on December 2, the entire supporting staff escalated their ongoing tiff with Katke, and launched a unanimous protest. Only a handful of staffers reported for work, to ensure that patients with urgent needs were not neglected.
By this time, Katke had withdrawn her allegations, but the protesters were adamant that they would not resume work till Katke was unseated from her position at the hospital, and they shouted the slogan, ‘Katke hatao, Cama bachao’. The strike was finally called off at about 1.15 pm, when DMER chief, Pravin Shringare, rushed to the scene and assured appropriate action within 48 hours.
Speaking to mid-day, Shringare said the issue would be resolved amicably. “I wasn’t aware about the issues faced by the staff members. However, we will certainly take necessary action within 48 hours,” he said, adding that patients would not be neglected in the meanwhile.
The other side
The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Rajshree Katke
Dr Katke was firm that she has never caused trouble for any of the staffers or ill-treated them. “I treat them like my colleagues. The cleaning programme is voluntary and not forced. Talking about the (December 1) incident, it has been hyped, and we didn’t blame anybody for the missing ring,” she said.
Shakir Hussain, Worli resident
I had brought my wife for abdominal surgery today; we had got the date after three months. But the procedure was postponed due to the drama. My wife is in extreme pain, I just hope she gets treated as soon as possible.
A nurse at the hospital
Our patients are already vulnerable to bacterial infection due to their sicknesses. We are supposed to maintain a germ-free and sanitised environment, but if we are forced to be a part of the cleaning activity in our uniforms and then resume our duties, it is going to affect the patients.