NEW DELHI: Ahead of the International Nurses Day on Tuesday, hundreds of nurses from Delhi and NCR took out a candlelight march in the capital to demand equal opportunities and end to contractual employment.

They claimed that most government hospital have 10-30% posts for nurses lying vacant due to which the existing staff is overburdened. Also, all new appointments are being made on contract basis in which there is no job security.

“WHO recommends one nurse for every six patient but in many hospitals in Delhi and other parts of the country the nurse-patient ratio is 1:30,” said Maya John, who represents the Centre for Struggling Women. She said workloads are steadily increasing in government hospitals and permanent nursing staff is slowly being outnumbered by the recruitment of contractual nurses.

According to the nursing community, there is no regulation on the nurse patient ration in the health care setups and private hospitals often exploit them.

“Even after 67 years of independence, nurses have to live with a social status wherein she is recognized only as ‘a white uniform with an injection merely following doctor’s orders in the hospital’. In reality, we are not subordinates of doctors but their colleagues with different yet complementary services in patient care,” Sushmita Yadav, a nurse, said.

Recently, nurses in all central government-run hospitals in Delhi went on strike to demand to filling up vacant posts and roll back new amendments to recruitment rules. The Delhi Nurses Union has been protesting against outsourcing of paramedical staff since it “compromises quality of work as well as pay”.

“The government is trying to outsource paramedical work, but we will not let it happen,” G K Khurana, union general secretary, said. They want the new rules, which call for experience at entry level and enforce upper age limit at 30 years, reversed.

The nursing unions claim that top hospitals including Safdarjung, AIIMS and Ram Manohar Lohia are battling acute shortage of the paramedical staff. “As per rules, ICUs are supposed to have one nurse for every bed. But in our hospital, the ratio is skewed and three nurses have to look after eight to 10 patients throughout the day,” said one of the protesters.