KOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – Two nurses who died in the Kolkata hospital fire while trying to save patients were awarded state recognition both by West Bengal state where they worked and by Kerala from where they hailed.
In the massive fire that claimed over 90 lives on 9 December 2011 at Advanced Medical Research Institute (AMRI) Hospital, two of the four hospital staff who died in the fire belonged to Kerala.
“The nursing fraternity from Kerala is acclaimed the world over for its commitment to the profession and a humane attitude towards patients. The two women are the personification of the values practiced by the community,” said Chief Minister of Kerala Mr. Oommen Chandy.
While West Bengal authorities made arrangements sending the bodies of Remya Rajappan, 24, and P.K. Vineetha (Monikkutty), 23, to Kerala, St Thomas Syro-Malabar Church at Behala facilitated the logistics and organized a farewell prayer service on Sunday morning, 11 December.
Nearly 3,000 nurses attended the prayers and paid their last respect.
Parish priest of the church Fr Joshy Myenparambil CMI said the prayer service began at 8am.
From there, nearly 160 colleagues and friends accompanied Remya’s brother Rajesh and Vineetha’s uncle Vijayan escorting the coffins to Kolkata airport en route to Kochi.
The coffins containing the charred bodies of Vineetha and Remya that arrived at Kochi in a Jet Airways flight were received at the airport by a battery of political leaders led by the Chief Minister Mr. Chandy.
“They pulled out eight of the nine patients in the noxious smoke-filled female ward and succumbed to the smoke and heat when they went up to save the ninth patient who had suffered a fracture,” the Chief Minister said.
The Kerala government has promised to grant them compensation. A decision in this regard would be taken at the next Cabinet meeting.
Of the 20 people injured in the fire, 17 were Keralites and the government would offer all assistance to their families.
Union Minister Vayalar Ravi, State Finance Minister K.M. Mani and State Revenue Minister Thiruvanchiyoor Radhakrishnan were among those who paid homage.
The bodies were later taken to their home towns in Kottayam district by 8 p.m. in a huge convoy of vehicles.
The funeral of Vineetha, daughter of Kunjumon and Mary of Pulickal House at Kothanallore, was held at the Parel Church Cemetery at Chamakkala, 12 December noon.
The funeral of Remya, daughter of Rajappan and Usha of Mecharil House at Uzhavoor, was held in the 12-cent compound of her decrepit house.
It is estimated that there are over 16,000 (sixteen thousand) nurses (both male and female) working in various Kolkata hospitals. Most of them are paid a pittance of Rs.7,000 (seven thousand) per month. The nurses say, they opt for Kolkata as they get better salary than elsewhere in India.