Frontline COVID warriors in Kerala are now facing a challenge of a different kind. Nearly 20,000 staff involved in COVID-19 duties are all set to lose their jobs, as per an order issued by the state mission director of the National Health Mission.
The health workers, who had played a key role in fighting the war against COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020, are angry with the government for not giving them adequate notice before summarily dismissing them.
According to the Kerala health department order, the services of this COVID brigade, which includes doctors, nursing staff, data entry operators and other staff employed in COVID treatment centres across the districts, will be terminated on a staggered basis before October 30. This dismissal is based on the belief that the worst of the pandemic is over, said media reports.
The Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association is upset with the state government’s decision. The association’s state president, Dr G S Vijayakrishnan, told the Times of India that the state government should have extended the services of this additional staff since a third wave has not been completely ruled out as yet.
He pointed out that the government should have retained this staff till November end. Since there would be clarity around mid-October if the third wave would hit the country or not. If this staff was let go then the health services may get affected if a third wave occurs, he added.
In the order issued to the district collectors, the government has said that these employees had been hired when the number of COVID cases had spiked in the state as extra resources to enable adequate medical care to patients.
Further, the government stated that considering the COVID situation and since the public had to be vaccinated, they had extended the services of the health brigade beyond six months from March 30, 2021. This period however ended on September 30, 2021.
The district collectors have been told to study the infrastructure needs of field hospitals and their staff requirement and accordingly plan to end the contracts of the COVID brigade in a staggered manner by the end of October 30.