New Delhi: On the occasion of International Nurses' Day, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday lauded nursing professionals for their continuous work during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling them the "strong and pivotal pillars" of the healthcare delivery system.

"Without nurses and other health workers, we will not win the battle against epidemic outbreaks," the minister said.

Vardhan also stressed on the need for nurses to apprise themselves of all the protocols, information about this disease, about infection prevention and control, so that not only they can protect themselves ably but also provide the best advice to all.

Stating that the strengths of nurses are being put to great challenge due to the current COVID-19 health crisis, Vardhan said, "I am reminded today of bravehearts like Jyoti Vithal Raksha, Staff Nurse from Pune, Anita Govindrao Rathod, Assistant Matron, Pune  and  Margaret, Nursing Officer, ESI Hospital, Jhilmil, whom we have recently lost.“

I offer my condolences to their families.

"I also stand with you to resolve that we will continue to fight this disease, keep our morale high, and also take necessary precautions and trainings to protect ourselves by following protocols." To protect the frontline healthcare workers, Vardhan said an ordinance has been promulgated to protect healthcare personnel against any violence.

The ordinance provides for making acts of violence against doctors and healthcare and sanitation workers cognisable and non-bailable offences.

It also provides compensation for injuries to healthcare service personnel and for damage to or loss of the property in which healthcare service personnel may have a direct interest in relation to the epidemic.

Additionally, the government has also approved the 'Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19' to provide an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh for ninety (90) days to a total of around 22.

12 lakh public healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and who may be at risk of being impacted by the virus, he said.

It will also include accidental loss of life on account of contacting COVID-19.

The minister also urged that nurses should take full benefits from the various webinars organised by AIIMS, Delhi and the Indian Nursing Council to apprise themselves about all the precautions that are needed to be taken while working during the pandemic.