A bid to storm the chief minister’s secretariat in Imphal by a group of COVID-19 contractual healthcare workers was foiled by police on duty in and around the high security zone on Tuesday.
Multitasking staff and staff nurses who were appointed on contract basis by the state government to meet the shortfall in the healthcare workers at government opened Covid care centres have been protesting for the last around one week. The protesting healthcare workers demanded extension of their service apart from disbursing their pending salaries for four months.
Intensifying their demands, they had even locked the office chamber of the director of the state Health services a few days ago. They also staged a sit-in-protest yesterday.
On Tuesday, they tried to storm the chief minister’s secretariat. However, when they almost reached the gate of the secretariat at Babupara in Imphal, police blocked them and pushed them back till Nupi Lal Memorial Complex, around 100 meters away from the secretariat. Even as police officials convinced them to disperse themselves, the contractual workers remained unmoved requesting the police to allow them to meet with the chief minister. However, they could not get the appointment to meet with the chief minister.
“We wanted to meet with our honourable chief minister and directly air our grievances. However, no permission is given,” a healthcare worker said. She also said that their service period expired on Tuesday and they were informed that the government would not extend their service further.
It can be noted here that the state Health department had appointed 150 staff nurses, 100 multitasking staff and 74 medical officers in August 2020 to engage them on contractual basis for three months to work at the Covid care centres. The state government had appointed them in view of the grim COVID-19 situation and as a precautionary measure to prevent escalation of the pandemic.
To meet the immediate requirement of the healthcare workers, chief medical officers of different districts had also appointed staff nurses and multitasking staff on contractual basis.
Well ahead of the expiry of the service period of the contractual and in the backdrop of declining COVID-19 infection rate, chief minister N Biren had recently stated that the contractual staff nurses, multitasking staffs and medical officers would no longer be re-engaged in view of the consistent decline in number of COVID-19 positive caseload in the state.
“Being a fearless warrior, we have been working in different Covid care centres with utmost sincerity and dedication to save the lives of many Covid patients, risking our lives, in the face of several challenges and social stigma. However, the state government appears to have forgotten our services”, a protester said. She recalled and said that when they returned home after duty at Covid care centres, locals, friends and even family members did not like them to return home, fearing that they would spread the virus in the locality. “At the same time, many of our colleagues got infected by the virus in line of duty”, she added.