Covid-19 and Female Health Care Professionals in India: Stigmatized or Heroines?

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Covid-19 and Female Health Care Professionals in India

Covid-19 and Female Health Care Professionals in India: Stigmatized or Heroines?

Covid-19 and Female Health Care Professionals in India: Stigmatized or Heroines?

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making every day 100- 150 phone calls since he announced the nationwide 21-day lockdown as per the senior government official. On March 28, 2020, the Prime Minister called on the nurse Chaiya on telephone who is working in the Naidu Hospital, Pune and taking care of the Corona patients. The PM has skill to convince the large masses to an individual. Mr. Modi humbly said: Namaste! Sister and discussed about the admitted Corona patients. Many people became emotional and praised the prime minister. The electronic media is calling the female health professional heroines and warriors. The issue is in the health care labour markets the gender equality prevails? The literature does not support this and wide discrimination prevails in these female health care labour markets. First, let us have a glimpse of history of female health care labour markets in British India. In history evidences illustrate in India there was a lot of resistance of the middle class families on the entry of the females in medical profession. The idea of female medical education was first discussed in 1872 by Dr Edward Green Balfour, the Surgeon General of Madras. While the Madras Medical College authorities initially opposed the idea, the Principal of the College eventually gave his consent to the proposal. Consequently, four European or Anglo-Indian female students were admitted in 1875.In Calcutta the progressive Brahmos and the British officials led the idea of female doctors and their training in medical college. Similarly in other parts of India this process of female medical education started. The real landmark in the history of the institutionalization of female medical education in India was, however, the foundation of the Dufferin Fund or the 'National Association for Supplying Female Medical Aid to the Women of India' in 1885 .In the colonial period the female medical professional especially doctors was discriminated. The female doctors were not paid at par with the male doctors and senior position of civil surgeons etc. was captured by the male doctors. The female doctors were not allowed to perform surgeries independently and to conduct caesarean births. Further, the female nurses never got respect in the society. From 1900-1948, the state was completely failed to provide decent working conditions to the female nurses in India The wages were not livable .Nursing was indeed a dirty, dangerous, low-status job, and that a number of nurses were considered immoral. The dreadful conditions in which nurses were allowed to work in fact reinforced and validated the distaste many felt for the career of nursing, creating a longstanding legacy of stigma and low status for the profession in India. The Christian missionaries played a major role in providing training to the nurses and many lower caste women got training. Very few participated in nursing training from the masculine high Hindu castes. St Stephen's Hospital, Delhi was the first one to begin training of the Indian women as nurses in 1867 .In the post independence India the gender inequality in the health care labour markets still prevails. Globally, gender inequality concerns four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Among physicians, the proportion of women is still lagging behind that of men in some, mainly surgical, specialties. Research shows that female medical students tend to gravitate towards specialties such as obstetrics-gynecology, pediatrics, pediatric surgery, dermatology, and oncology. The wage gaps exist between male and female doctors. Globally, the gender pay gap is estimated to be an average of 20 per cent or greater in the overall economy. The pay gap is even more pronounced in the health and social work sectors(ILO).studies have demonstrated that female physician researchers, physician assistants, pharmacists and nurse practitioners are earning less than their male counterparts. In the private hospitals the female nurses are getting the low wages in comparison to the wages of nurses working in the government hospitals. The migration of nurses always depicts the level of dissatisfaction with the functioning of Indian health system. India has been facing a severe shortage of domestic nurses. There is an estimated shortfall of 2.4 million nurses in India. It is reported that more than 640,000 Indian nurses are working abroad. From the policy perspective it is necessary to understand the factors behind this migration. The number of studies exhibits the lower wages; the coercive working conditions and low social respect of the profession always compel the female nurses to migrate abroad.

As the COVID-19 pandemic puts the world’s health services under the microscope. Numerous countries already faced shortages of health workers – often due to the long hours, low pay and occupational safety and health risks which deter many from entering the health workforce in the first place and which make many qualified health workers leave the profession prematurely (ILO).The female health professionals against all the above discussed odds are on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. They are facing a double burden: longer shifts at work and additional care work at home. Many of the female health workers due to longer working hours and high responsibility and prone to this deadly disease are worried and depressed. The continuous detachment from families and children is more depressing. Around the globe 100 million female workers in health and care institutions around balancing work and family responsibilities has always been a challenge. The outbreak has shed light on these longstanding gender inequalities. It has also exposed and exacerbated an already existing global care crisis. The physical attacks by attendants of patients and patients on the female health workers are further disheartening. The shortage of PPE(Personal Protective Equipment) at the workplace is further problem for the health professional. In words of one doctor: The government had also not paid attention to World Health Organization (WHO) warnings about impending global shortages of PPE on February 27, and called on industries to ramp up production by just 40 percent(Aljazeera TV).Even the nurses working on the contract are not getting their salaries for the last couple of months .For example  in Punjab they are demanding for the regularization of jobs and many times faced direct confrontations with police during agitations for the genuine demands.

      Amid this crisis of Covid-19, where the spotlight is on the nurses all over the world. The WHO brought first ever State of the world's nursing report on World Health Day. This report provides the most up-to-date evidence and cutting-edge policy options on the global nursing workforce. It also presents a compelling case for considerable – yet feasible – investment in nursing education, jobs, and leadership, which is required to strengthen the nursing workforce to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), improve health for all, and strengthen the primary health care workforce on our journey towards universal health coverage. The report appreciated the role of nurses in health teams in managing the threats of epidemics in twenty first century across the globe  including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the Middle East respiratory corona virus (MERS-CoV) outbreak in 2015, Zika virus disease in 2016, Ebola virus disease in 2014 (and the COVID-19 outbreak that began in 2019.

          On the policy implications side this ninety percent of the female nurses workforce globally should not be discriminated on the basis of gender. The effective implementation and monitoring of gender wage gap policies are required to deliberately promote gender equity within the health workforce, and overcome the historical legacy that has undervalued nurses ’work, including through gender bias. Ensuring decent work conditions is relevant and necessary for all health occupations, but the nursing profession has particular challenges. As a mostly female workforce and considering the negative legacy in some contexts of a traditionally subordinate role, the nursing workforce is inherently more prone to facing gender bias and discrimination at work. Nurses are also subject to long working hours, risk of attack in some settings, sexual harassment and unfair treatment as migrant workers. Nurses must have opportunities to develop their leadership potential and participate in decision-making forums. Nurses should be considered, on par with other health professions, for appointment to leadership positions within national and state governments, as well as within local and other organizational structures. The bureaucrats and doctors should consider them as part of team and ought not to dictate their terms. These are some of the main policy implications on which government should think to make them in real sense warriors or heroines at the time of pandemic, epidemic or outbreak and to break the chains of slavery at the workplace.

Dr.Varinder Sharma, Associate Professor,

Punjab Development Studies Unit,

Institute for Development & Communication(IDC),Chandigarh(India)





4/18/2020 6:36:00 PM kids programming
Covid-19 and Female Health Care Professionals in India

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