The Maharashtra government in January this year laid off 25 percent of contractual health staff with a one-day termination notice thinking the Covid-19 crisis is over. As the cases in the state began to decline, the MVA government asked the health workers who were hired on a contract basis during the month of April last year under the National Health Mission to leave abruptly.
This move made them ineligible for the vaccination drive that was to begin for the frontline workers. Pramod Kate, president of Corona Yodha Karamchari Parishad said, “We came to work as the chief minister had made an appeal for people to come forward and help. At that time, permanent staff at the hospitals were not turning up for their work, but we didn’t care for our families and worked with Covid patients. What we are getting in return is one day notice before termination. We demand the government to reinstate us and give permanent jobs,” added Kate.
Out of these 10,000 contractual staff members, 1,000 were employed at various hospitals in Mumbai while more than 5000 were hired in East Vidarbha.
Pooja Doiphode,who worked with BMC’s E ward as a multi-purpose worker narrated, “When we joined, we had put our families at risk. Many of us also tested positive for Covid-19. We worked at a time when nobody was ready to come out of their houses. We spent hours in PPE kits and moved Covid positive bodies. We deserve a dignified treatment rather than asked to leave when requirement is over.”
The health workers were appointed in the categories of doctors, anesthesiologists, medical officers, hospital managers, nurses, x-ray technicians, ECG technicians, laboratory technicians, drug manufacturers, storekeepers, data entry operators, ward boys to manage the influx of patients at Covid-19 hospitals and Covid care facilities.
The workers had staged several protests across the state demanding permanent employment for their uninterrupted and selfless service.
Maharashtra faces shortage of staff
However, the layoff backfired for the government as the state was starved of the healthcare workforce with the advent of the second wave of the coronavirus.
Maharashtra which was one of the states to be hit by the sudden surge in new coronavirus cases first is facing an acute shortage of healthcare workers currently.
Union Health Minister Rajesh Bhushan raised an alarm with the Maharashtra government over its unsatisfactory performance early this month. The minister wrote to the state of Maharashtra to accelerate the hiring of contractual workers. “Acute shortage of healthcare workforce has been reported by the teams from Aurangabad, Nandurabar, Yawatmal, Satara, Palghar, Jalgaon, Jalna Districts,” he informed in the letter.
Bhushan also criticized Maharashtra’s lethargic approach towards the second wave of the pandemic. Basis feedback received from the central team, Bhushan wrote, “Containment operations were found to be sub-optimal in Satara, Sangli and Aurangabad, with less than satisfactory perimeter control…Efforts at surveillance and contact tracing were found to be sub-optimal in Buldhana, Satara, Aurangabad and Nanded, mostly due to limited manpower engaged in this task.”
Maharashtra reported 66,358 new coronavirus cases and 895 fatalities on Tuesday taking the total death toll to 66,179.