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Public Healthcare workers in a dire health situation?

Twitter: @Abhijeetgurjarp

Kolhapur: A nine-month pregnant ASHA worker Priyanka Dake, from Kolhapur, fainted while carrying out an Ayushman Bharat golden card registration camp at Mhada colony, Kolhapur. She is nine months and fifteen days due for her delivery but is still working under scorching sun performing her duty.  She’s the equal breadwinner in her small family so she said I can’t afford unpaid leaves for maternity like ANC and PNC. 

ASHAs are voluntary community healthcare workers introduced under the central government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) 2005. The only women ASHA community has been serving in India since 2005 and has more than one million communities across India. 

Megha Pawar met with an accident in February 2023, she was treated in a private hospital which billed her some lacs of rupees followed by bed rest for another four months of recovery. Pic Date 02-02-2023 (photo courtesy: Abhijeet Gurjar)

The ASHA is paid an incentive-based honorarium, and the ASHA unions claim it is underpaid and often delayed. In 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) rewarded them with the Global Health Leaders Award. But, Jyoti Taware, district secretary of Bhartiya Majadur Sangh claims that ASHA needs to be well treated both as a human and as an employee of the government. 

Asha workers training program at Zilha Parishad Auditorium in February 2023. Pic Date 02-02-2023 (photo courtesy: Abhijeet Gurjar)

Priyanka Dake, is pregnant but has to carry out door-to-door surveys for the camp and facilitate vaccination camp in her region. Furthermore, she says I can’t make any excuse or keep ourselves from lifting chairs and doing hard work just because I am due for delivery. We care for pregnant women and babies but there’s no one to take care of our health. 

Nine-month pregnant ASHA worker Priyanka Dake getting details of residents for validating Ayushman Bharat golden card scheme. Pic Date 13-03-2023 (photo courtesy: Abhijeet Gurjar)

Many times, ASHA has to join the duty within two months of their delivery. She can’t take rest and get her postnatal care (PNC). Mostly ASHA can’t afford these unpaid leaves and returns on duty to earn for their family. 

Priyanka carried out her routine work as well as camps in her area along with her work in PHC during her ninth month of pregnancy. That’s why Priyanka demands to be paid for the ANC and PNC leaves as per the government employees.  

Further, she said, “We served in difficult times of covid, risking our own lives along with our children and family members. Government should keep that in mind and supply us the paid ANC and PNC leaves as per the other government employees.” 

Megha Pawar, Asha of Kolhapur met with an accident two months ago and was unable to go for her job. She said “Whenever there’s such a medical emergency any ASHA government should help her considering her as an employee. ASHA is serving in the remotest parts of rural India to bridge the gap between public health care and community, but the government should support us in our difficult times of medical emergencies. We are not demanding anything but to consider ASHA as a government employee and extend them the benefits of employees.” 

Megha was admitted to the hospital and has to undergo surgery on her left hand. Now she is taking rest at her home but successfully delivering her service with the help of other ASHA friends.  

Jyoti Taware, an ASHA worker from Kolhapur and district secretary of Bharatiya Majadur Sangh, a union of ASHA demands that many ASHAs are facing a difficult time as they are not supported by the government in their healthcare requirements. She said “we are creating awareness about family welfare, personal and public hygiene, and delivering care for pregnant mothers and stillborn babies. We are also carrying out different surveys and campaigns for health scheme registration and distribution of healthcare scheme cards. In this way, we are responsible for the widespread use of the public healthcare system. Still, the government does not recognize our service and still we are volunteers, because of this we are not able to safeguard our healthcare issues like ANC and PNC leave, insurance, medical and other types of employee benefits”. 

She demanded to stop paying ASHA an incentive-based honorarium and reward them the status of government employees. The WHO award does not change our situation. Further, she demanded to regularize ASHAs as government employees and help us secure our future.   


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