‘Transport was a Huge Issue’

Q: During the past several months, you have been involved with pandemic-related work. Can you give a brief overview of what your pandemic and non-pandemic duties were?


Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM): Most of my routine work was halted in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The only task that I had to do was to conduct surveys of people who came to the village from outside and check their temperature and oxygen levels.


I rarely went door-to-door for this because my Medical Officer was against it. He always encouraged people to come to the Community Health Centre (CHC) to get checked. I used to go to the houses of people who refused to come to the CHC because of apprehensions.


In May 2020, when the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, I had to juggle both my pandemic and non-pandemic tasks. Along with doing surveys, I was also involved in providing care for pregnant women and conducting check-ups for children.


Q: Did you receive any support from your immediate supervisor to carry out these activities?


ANM: I report to my supervisor daily about the number of people who come to the CHC along with the reason for their visit. We use WhatsApp and phone calls for communication because it is very difficult to get a meeting with the supervisors. They are also working with other groups and taking care of surveys.


The Gram Panchayat also supervises our work. I have to report monthly to the Gram Panchayat about my COVID-19 work.


My supervisor has been supportive throughout. There have never been any penalties or punishments. We are always encouraged to ask questions before beginning any work in order to avoid mistakes. My supervisor also helped us a lot by making sure that masks, PPE kits are made available to us.


Q: Have there been challenges to carrying out your work?


ANM: There were many challenges and they kept on increasing over time. Earlier, people were scared of coming to the CHC for routine immunisation, even if they would come, they refused to follow the social distancing norms.


We were also given the responsibility to survey people and check their temperatures but people refused to come to the CHC for that. A lot of people wanted me to come to their house to do the check-up but my Medical Officer did not allow me. A couple of times when people came to the CHC, the hospital denied them entry and asked them to stay at home, stating that one of the frontline workers would come to their place for the check-up.


The miscommunication between the hospital and the Medical Officer was frustrating. Because of this, I wasn’t clear on my duties. Eventually, this problem was sorted because my Medical Officer allowed me to do door-to-door check-ups.


Transport was a huge issue for me in the beginning. In March, I was posted 65 kms away from home, and because I was given two villages to work in, I had to stay at the headquarters to cut down on travel time. Later (in July) this was resolved because my posting was changed by my supervisor.


I used to get my normal salary on time, but the COVID-19 related incentives were very late. I got only Rs. 3,000 in total for COVID-19 work, though I heard that other frontline workers got more. I also didn’t get any reimbursements for all the extra expenditure that happened while doing door-to-door surveys.


My biggest challenge has been my family. They want to see their women at home, and I can’t do that because of my job. Because of my double shifts, I am out most of the day. I also had to stay at the headquarters for months, and my family was not supportive of that either.


This interview was conducted as a part of a research study funded by the Azim Premji University under the COVID-19 Research Funding Programme 2020. The study delves into the experiences of frontline workers in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during the COVID-19 pandemic.


It was conducted with an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife in Udaipur, Rajasthan on 2 January 2021 in Hindi, and has been translated.

Source: T Yadamma/The Straits Times


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