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Staff crunch cripples care centres in Chittoor

Many quitting due to delayed payment, safety concerns

Chittoor has emerged as the worst-affected district in the second wave with it reporting the highest number of COVID-related deaths in the State and the daily average cases numbering around 3,000. The district logged 1.73 lakh confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, including 27,000 active cases at present, and 1,166 casualties.

The administration, which has been on a war-footing to arrange beds for increasing number of patients, had set up more than 25 COVID Care Centres in various mandals during the second wave, started in April. But their efforts are stymied by severe shortage of health workers and nursing assistants at the centres.

The centres are set up at Kuppam, Palamaner, Madanapalle, Valmikipuram, Piler, Chandragiri, Srikalahasti, Satyavedu, Nagari, Karveti Nagaram, GD Nellore.

While the organisers, in coordination with the NGOs and outsourcing agencies, are making frantic efforts to get more temporary staff, the existing workers are quitting the job due to delayed payment and safety concerns.

A workforce of at least 1,000 is needed to maintain hygiene and attend to the patients and pooling up even 10% of the requirement has become difficult, says a member of a Tirupati-based NGO. The NGO, which took up the assignment to pool up temporary field staff for the centres, admitted that right from March till date, close to 50% of the workforce had dropped out.

‘No insurance’

A week after joining a care centre at Tirupati as a temporary worker, a 23-year-old B.Tech graduate stopped reporting to duties. “I joined here as I wanted to contribute my mite by serving the patients. I was also jobless at the time. But later, I found that the staff was neither provided with PPE kits and masks nor did they have any insurance. The virus was wreaking havoc on all sections of people, irrespective of age. We are scared too. I had to quit on the advice of my parents,” he said.

‘Overburdened’

A 60-year-old man, who joined as a health worker at a centre in Madanapalle, deplored that he was forced to do the job of four workers. He claimed that he had quit the job as he had not received his wages for two months. He said a dozen of new joinees left within a month.

The staff crunch was also attributed to the caution of the village elders. “The order of the day in the villages is that if any person joins a COVID centre, s/he is not allowed to return until the centre is closed,” a medical officer at Piler observed.

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