By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
Mysore/Mysuru: Hundreds of Healthcare and ASHA workers go into homes around Mysuru district to provide vital services amidst Coronavirus pandemic, endangering themselves.
These ASHAs, short for Accredited Social Health Activists and Healthcare workers are drawn from local and largely rural communities, and are a crucial element in primary and community health programmes. They go door-to-door educating people about maternal and child health, contraception, immunisation and sanitation, as well as enrolling them in health programmes and monitoring the results.
Health workers are at risk
Their role in the fight against COVID-19 is not that different — they visit the homes they have been assigned, educate families about isolation, and monitor people for symptoms of the virus. But the risk is far greater than anything they have faced before.
For one, they only have minimum protection equipment like masks and sanitisers. Owing to shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), these workers are only given basic stuff like masks and sanitisers while the actual protocol says they must wear PPEs when they visit vulnerable areas.
Several ASHA workers told ‘Star of Mysore’ that they use cotton masks which they wash daily so they can re-use them. With Mysuru being declared as a Red Zone or a Hotspot, the Health Department is working overtime chalking out more measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Sadly, several of these Health workers and ASHA workers are underpaid. Most of the health workers are on contract and ASHA workers get a meagre salary of Rs. 4,000 per month and now for the Coronavirus work, they get Rs. 1000 extra.
These workers have been putting their lives in danger on a meagre salary. “We should be protected. It’s the Government’s responsibility to support us,” they said. But low salary does not discourage them from going to work. “My husband insists that I shouldn’t go to work. He says other people such as nurses and doctors get paid a better salary, let them do this work,” says an ASHA worker on condition of anonymity.
The Department has deployed 609 Junior and Senior Health Assistants attached to 117 Primary Health Centres (PHCs) of the district to visit homes in vulnerable areas and clusters around Nanjangud, the epicentre of the viral attack from Jubilant Generics and educate people on the precautionary and safety measures to be taken to prevent COVID-19.
With people still continuing to come out of their homes despite strict lockdown regulations, the work of the health workers has become all the more important in respect of sensitising the public on the importance of following all lockdown regulations and maintain social distancing.
Role becomes vital
The role of the health workers in educating the people has become vital in this hour of crisis. While doctors, nurses and other para-medical staff are attending to patients inside the hospital risking their own lives, the health workers work outside and are very much part of the frontline Coronavirus warriors.
The health workers who along with ASHA workers are carrying out door-to-door COVID-19 survey, collect data of all the residents of every home in respect of health issues. They also conduct a preliminary health check-up of the residents and sensitise them on the importance of maintaining social distancing during this crucial hour.
Population and medical facilities
There are 21 Primary Health Centres (PHCs), 2 Community Health Centres (CHCs) and other hospitals in the city, which has nearly 11 lakh population, while Mysuru Taluk, which has a population of 3.5 lakh has 14 PHCs and 1 CHC, T. Narasipur Taluk with a population of 3.02 lakh has 14 PHCs, 3 CHCs and a General Hospital, Nanjangud Taluk with a population of 4 lakh has 17 PHCs, 2 CHCs and a General Hospital, H.D. Kote Taluk with a population of 2.8 lakh has 16 PHCs,1 CHC and a General Hospital, Hunsur Taluk with a population of 3 lakh has 21 PHCs and a General Hospital, Periyapatna Taluk with a population of 2.66 lakh has 19 PHCs and a General Hospital and K.R. Nagar Taluk with a population of 2.58 lakh has 14 PHCs, a CHC and a General Hospital.
Overall, Mysuru District has a population of nearly 32.25 lakh, with six General Hospitals, 10 CHCs, 117 PHCs, 23 Urban PHCs, 7 Maternity Hospitals, 4 Mobile Health Units, 1 ED (Epidemic Diseases) Hospital and 2 Extension Health Centres, totalling 170 Hospitals.
Of the 609 health workers engaged in the survey and related tasks, 160 are female Junior Health Assistants, 110 male Junior Health Assistants, 39 Senior Health Assistants and the rest are other health staff.
Active surveillance team at work
The authorities, after demarcating the areas where quarantined people are located as epicentres, have formed an active surveillance team which will visit all homes located in 3 km radius of such epicentres and carry out health checks of residents.
The team examines the residents for fever and other ailments that are symptomatic of COVID-19, which is called as Phase-1 of testing. The team will again visit the residents after 10 days in the second phase, during which any resident found to be facing health problems, will be shifted to the designated COVID-19 Hospital for a thorough medical examination and will be admitted there if tested positive, said District Vector-Borne Diseases Control Officer Dr. Chidambara.