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The tables turn when Indian health workers take a hit from Covid | India News


PUNE: Jyoti Bhambure is usually the one who dispenses medicine; this week she was the recipient, among the first in the force of one million Indian healthcare workers to win a Covid-19 vaccine.
Dressed in a bright green sari with a gold trim, Bhambure visited the small rural hospital in western India at the allotted time and said the blow had lifted a weight from her.
“I am no longer afraid of the coronavirus,” said Bhambure, after receiving his initial dose on Tuesday, one of the first front-line workers to gain protection in the pandemic.
“We handle the children and interact with the mothers,” he said. “So I am glad to be vaccinated. I have no fear left in my mind.”
India has suffered 152,000 deaths from the virus and has prioritized some 30 million frontline workers in the first phase of a vaccination campaign that began on January 16.
For healthcare workers like Bhambure, a place on the priority list felt like long-awaited validation for all women who work as accredited social health activists, or ASHA for short.
“I was the first to get vaccinated in my village. It felt good. They recognized the work we have done,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the village of Khed in the western state of Maharashtra.
“The recognition came late, but it finally came.”
Long year
In the past long year, ASHA workers – a million women dressed in pink saris uniforms – have worked frantically on the rural front to curb an ever-worsening pandemic as millions of migrants made their way home after urban jobs would disappear.
Multitasking doesn’t begin to describe your job.
From offering advice on Covid-19 to recording all arrivals to the village, women were simultaneously tasked with quarantining newcomers while keeping up with their traditional duties of caring for newborns and also to mothers.
ASHA workers saw their work hours and duties get longer and longer, and they even struggled to be recognized as government employees eligible for benefits, rather than just volunteers.
Because if ASHA workers didn’t step up, it wasn’t clear who else could, as the 15-year-old force is the only health provider in many villages where health care facilities are distant or non-existent, with 1,000 to 1,500 people in each worker. watch out.
Eighteen ASHA workers have died in service to Covid, the government told parliament last year.
Women take all precautions (masks, disinfectant, some even wear protective gear) but the fear of infection remains.
“I have cared for 34 coronavirus patients in my village and I am still at work. I wear a mask, but getting vaccinated was important,” said Sharda Sachin Patarne, an ASHA worker in Khed village in Pune district, who also got one fired on Tuesday.
‘Good sign’
ASHA was born in 2005 to improve the health of vast rural areas of India isolated from doctors, clinics and hospitals.
Whether it is directing maternal care in the village or carrying out vaccination campaigns throughout the area, ASHA workers are a lynchpin, but they say they are treated as volunteers, they are not even entitled to the minimum wage.
Paid around 4,000 rupees a month, half the average monthly minimum wage, women also receive payments of 50 to 500 rupees linked to specific tasks they perform.
Last year, they went on strike for better pay, protective equipment and job recognition. They were offered a pay raise for their Covid-19 duties, but many complained about irregular payments.
So when the government implemented its plans to safeguard the healthcare front line – doctors, nurses, cooks, and hospital cleaners – extending that coverage to ASHA workers made sense.
It sent a “good sign,” said Sejaj Dand, founder of Anandi, a nonprofit organization that advocates for women’s rights, and said the front line would not be safe after all if ASHA was left out.
The next stop, she said, is to give the 1 million women an advocate in government and fair terms to reflect their front-line role.
“This should lead to creating a cadre for them in government services and ensuring that all of their social security rights are covered,” Dand said.
“It is logical that his employment is regularized now.”

Times of India