IMA, nursing associations slam Delhi CM’s decision to hire ‘health assistants’ trained for just 15 days

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Indian Medical Association and nursing associations have criticized Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement that his government, through IP University, would hire and train Class XII pass outs for two weeks to prepare them as Community Assistant Nurses to help doctors and nurses administer injections and vaccinations.

The Chief Minister had called the project ambitious and said IP University had created a two-week course to train 5,000 youth, who had passed Class XII, on a first-come basis, to help the government deal with a third COVID-19 wave if it were to hit the national Capital.

As there is a shortage of medical and para-medical staff, these ‘health assistants’ would be trained in the nine medical colleges of Delhi and work with doctors and nurses. They will trained in home care, CPR, giving injections and vaccinations, use of catheters, ventilators etc and will be deployed at temporary COVID-19 facilities. The training will begin from June 28 in batches of 500 and they will be called to duty if and when there is a third wave.

Calling the Delhi government’s announcement ‘impossible and dangerous’, Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) president Dr Roy K George said, “These trained assistants cannot be called nurses or even community assistant nurses. To be a nurse you need to have a good knowledge of the anatomy and physiology. The only things these assistants should be doing are handing out trays, transporting patients, changing clothes of patients or registering the patients.”

“It takes more than four years to understand the human body, which is why initially even doctors and nurses have difficulty with injections. An injection is not a mechanical process and the person involved needs to know the exact location of the muscle, nerve and blood vessels to avoid the drug from entering a nerve or a blood vessel. The Chief Minister’s proposition is scary because if the vaccine enters the blood vessel or of it pierces a nerve, it can be fatal,” George said.

Former president of the Indian Medical Association, Dr Rajan Sharma, called the CM’s decision ‘pathetic’. He questioned the need for nursing and medical colleges if all the government wanted was 15-day trained assistants in hospitals. “The last I heard, there was a shortage of 3 crore nurses. Why isn’t the government hiring through the multiple waiting lists available? Just because there is a shortage of nurses doesn’t mean that this is the solution. People train for years to give injections and these trained assistants will not even know which medicine to inject. The government is playing with the lives of people. You cannot end a shortage of nurses with such a move,” he said.

“Will you take a Class XII pass out into your news room as a journalist assistant and ask them to churn out articles? Is this even possible? What will stop such trained people from setting up small centres in rural India and calling themselves as nurses? Do we have control over this? Already, Ayurveda doctors have been asked to perform certain surgeries and now this. This move cannot be digested,” Sharma added.

The All India Government Nurses Federation (AIGNF) also slammed the announcement, and has demanded that these trained assistants cannot be called community nursing assistants. “Please don’t make a mockery of nurses. We trained nurses will be called 15-day nurses and the government cannot use this term as a nurse is a licenced professional and cannot work without registration with the State Nursing Council. A registered nurse provides scientific, psychological and technological knowledge in the care of patients,” said GK Khurana, secretary general of AIGNF.

“The Delhi government has forever been trying to reduce the status of nurses. The health department had even complained about our salaries. Why are we considered to be of no value? Is the government looking to replace nurses with such assistants and reduce the quality of care?” asked a senior nurse in a government hospital in Delhi.

According to IP University, the course details had been fixed and the textbooks were being readied. A spokesperson, who did not want to be identified, said that at the end of the two weeks, each of the students would be given a medical kit, but the person was unable to answer if either the Delhi government or the University would pay for it. The two-week training is being conducted free.

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