MP celebrates 7.21 crore for COVID vaccines, but hasn’t paid more than 90,000 vaccinators, ASHAs and paramedics
Bhopal: Archana Carpenter, 29, a The auxiliary nurse-midwife (ANM) stationed in the Narsinghpur locality of the Rajgarh district of Madhya Pradesh died of a heart attack on October 23, while on her way to administer the COVID-19 vaccine of door to door in neighboring villages.
Carpenter’s husband Chitresh Ojha, 33, claimed she was overworked. She had not received any leave since January 23, nor any compensation or incentives promised by the government.
“She was under tremendous pressure and returned home late at night since the vaccination started. She was often busy with paperwork until 2 a.m. and subsequently passed away,” Ojha said, who runs a general store.
Like Archana, there are over 90,000 health workers who are instrumental in administering over 7.21 crore of COVID vaccines (through November 12), making Madhya Pradesh the state with the fifth highest vaccination in the country. These workers ran from pillar to post and even faced lathi accusations during protests, all in an attempt to collect their fair dues. Some of them are paid a pittance, while thousands are still awaiting payment.
Over 84,000 unaccredited social health activists The workers (ASHA), who drew crowds to vaccination centers, were promised Rs 200 per day, as per government order. Hundreds of ANMs and paramedical vaccinators, contracted out by the Ministry of Health and the National Health Mission to administer the vaccines, were to be paid Rs 500 per day, but more than 75% of them are still in service. awaiting payment.
In addition to this, Alternate Vaccine Delivery (AVD) staff who transport vaccines to the centers from the cold store, were to be paid Rs 90 per bucket of vaccine they were carrying, with one person authorized to carry as much as possible. of 10 buckets per day. However, just like ASHA and ANM workers, even their dues have not been paid since August.
According to officials of the State Department of Health, more than 14,000 ANM staff, contract or contract, administer vaccines at 8,498 sites. Over the past two months, ANMs have vaccinated people on their doorsteps with the help of ASHA workers.
In a letter issued by the National Health Mission, Madhya Pradesh, to the chief medical officers of health and district immunization officers of all districts on January 28, 2021, states that the Rs 200 per day will be paid to workers in the ASHA for mobilizing people for COVID vaccination aside from their current salary of 2,000 rupees per month. In addition, Rs 500 per day will be paid to vaccinators who are contracted out for the work.
In addition, the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced Rashi protsahan (incentive) of Rs 10,000 to COVID frontline workers. But these health workers got neither the promised remuneration nor the protsahan rashi.
To assert their demands, health workers, including young doctors, have staged dozens of protests in Bhopal over the past eight months and handed out numerous memoranda to district collectors and senior health officials, but in vain.
This pathetic fate of health workers is serious as the government of Madhya Pradesh, led by the Bharatiya Janata party, celebrates the ‘historic’ achievement of India administering more than 100 crore of COVID vaccines since January 16, 2021 and crediting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for this achievement.
“Empty words cannot fill the stomach,” lamented ANM union leader Aakancha Dubey, speaking on the issue of non-payment of fees and other incentives to health workers.
On the daily struggle of ANM workers in administering COVID vaccines, Dubey said that since January 16, 2021 (date of vaccination start), ANMs and ASHAs have been working more than 15 hours a day from 9 from morning to late at night without the support of the district administration, whether in terms of transport or security.
âWe were promised the sun and the moon when the vaccination campaign began and the administration needed manpower. They not only offered a higher salary, but also vehicles for our trip to reach the villagers, but those promises turned out to be hollow, âshe said.
Dubey claimed that when the price of gasoline skyrocketed, ANMs traveled with their own mode of transport to remote areas. âOur government holidays have been canceled, forcing us to work on Diwali and Bhai Duj,â she said.
Rahul Jain, president of the ANM workers union, said: âANMs were targeted to administer an average of 400 to 500 vaccines per day. after all that, the government turns its back on them by paying them and takes all the credit for it. “
Archana Carpenter, mother of two, had joined as ANM in Narsinghpur on January 5, 2020. She was in charge of more than 15 villages but conducted door-to-door investigations during the two COVID waves without PPE ( personal protective equipment), mask or disinfectant provided by the government, except Rs 12,000 as salary.
“He was an unarmed soldier who sacrificed his life in order to save other people. She put her life in danger and almost abandoned her two children during the vaccination campaign. But what is the result?” Her husband asked, adding, “She is also not considered a COVID warrior and her family has not received any financial support.” Who will take care of his two children, including his two-year-old daughter.
Patting ANM, ASHA and CHO on the back for the success of the COVID vaccination campaign, Priyanka Das, director of the national health mission, said: âJust because of their hard work, we managed to administer over 7.11 crore of vaccine in just a few months. ASHAs have mobilized populations, ANMs and CHOs have administered vaccines and this equation works perfectly. “
On the issue of not paying the promised money, she said: “I recently became director of the NHM. Therefore, I don’t know much about the promises made to them.”
After a massive protest in Bhopal by ASHA workers on April 29, then NHM Madhya Pradesh director Chhavi Bharadwaj wrote to chief medical officers of all districts to issue vaccination incentives ASHA workers, but it didn’t work.
Shedding light on the work of ASHA workers who mobilized people for vaccines, Laxmi Kourav, state president of MK Asha Sahyogini Sangh, an independent body of ASHA workers, said : âDuring the first wave of COVID, we were promised 1,000 rupees per month. for a three-month and Rs 10,000 door-to-door investigation by the Chief Minister as Protsahan Rashi. Regarding vaccination, we have worked as mobilizers and are eligible to receive Rs 200 per day for it. But, even after half a dozen protests, only 20% of us got paid. “
On top of that, with many ASHA workers who died from COVID-related complications after contracting the virus during door-to-door investigations, barely one or two were paid Rs 50 lakh, as promised by the chief minister.
When the issue of non-payment was raised with the state’s immunization official, Dr Santosh Shukla, he said the department did not promise any fees or inducements to anyone. âThe government already pays them a salary for their work. What is the need for fees? pay them. “
Asked about Chief Minister Chouhan’s June 2020 statement in which he pledged 10,000 rupees to every frontline health worker as an incentive to work during COVID, he said: âThe department does not work with mere words. No such order has been issued in this regard. “
Calling it like “Injustice,” Amulya Nidhi, state president of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said: “When the government needed manpower, it promised incentives and honoraria, but infantrymen are still not paid During months. It is an injustice. They should be paid what they were promised. “
âThe government, which has innumerable funds for development projects in electoral districts and for the organization of major events, must respond to the legitimate demands of frontline health workers,â he added.
Despite repeated attempts, Minister of Health Prabhuram Choudhary could not be contacted.