Trade unions, contract workers’ unions, health workers and employees in Andhra Pradesh are demanding the state government to renew the contracts of health workers including doctors, medical technicians and sweepers among others hired on one year contract last year for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contractual workers’ unions have also called for statewide protest demonstrations near hospitals on May 24 to highlight their multiple issues.
On May 21, in a letter to the principal secretary of the Health Department, Anil Kumar Singhal, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of State Government Contract & Outsourcing Employees said that several contractual health workers in East Godavari district who were recruited last year on COVID-19 duty by the Health Department were recently removed from their posts.
“The doctors, nurses, sanitation workers and other health workers recruited last year for combatting COVID-19 have risked their lives to support the government in fighting the pandemic. While the second wave of the pandemic has once again exposed the need for more manpower in the public health systems, in contrast, the Health Department is now removing the contractual health workers recruited last year,” said A V Nageswara Rao, chairman of the JAC.
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He added that thousands of workers including sanitation workers, pharmacists, lab technicians and nurses who were recruited last year are on the verge of losing their jobs due to the ending of their contracts. “These workers have left their families and risked their lives in assisting the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The government must take responsibility and ensure them their jobs,” said Rao.
Separately, in another letter to Singhal, Andhra Pradesh United Medical & Health Employees Union has urged the government to provide insurance support of Rs 50 lakh to each household of the contractual health workers who lost their lives due to COVID-19.
The employees union also submitted a list of health workers including staff nurses and contractual paramedical staff who lost their lives due to COVID-19 in the second wave. “Nearly 50 health workers succumbed to the disease in the last three months. The government must identify their families and support them,” said T Venkateswarlu of the union.
The union has also called upon the contract and outsourced health workers to participate in the state-wide protest on May 24 in support of their demands. On the same day, Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs, are going on a one-day nationwide strike raising their problems during the pandemic.
A state government Public Health Department official told NewsClick on condition of anonymity that the government is considering the renewal of the time period of the contractual workers for one more year.
Among the other demands of the JAC and employees’ union include payment of pending salaries to all contractual health workers, setting up of separate COVID-19 care centres for health workers suffering from SARS-CoV-2, 21 days of leave for workers in COVID-19 isolation or under treatment, and supply of masks and sanitisers for all health and frontline workers.
As on Saturday, May 22, there are 2.09 lakh active COVID-19 cases and 9,904 people have succumbed to the disease in Andhra Pradesh.