Shadowing a sanitary inspector on Corona duty

Visitors at a health unit in Pudupet and K. Vasudevan. Photos: R. Ragu

Visitors at a health unit in Pudupet and K. Vasudevan. Photos: R. Ragu  

What does it mean to live and work around someone who comes face to face with the Coronavirus every day? The Hindu Downtown presents a day in the life of a sanitary inspector in Zone 5

“We don’t think of tomorrow; just do your work without thinking too much about whether the virus will infect you or not,” says K. Vasudevan as he proceeds to check the details of the visitors at his Unit Office in Royapuram.

Fifty-three-year-old Vasudevan is a Sanitary Officer (SO) at the Public Health Department of Zone — 5 (Royapuram), Chennai, one of the zones within Greater Chennai Corporation where the COVID-19 numbers are on a strikingly higher side.

Operating in a containment zone, Vasudevan has a gruelling schedule on his hands. He works between 7 a.m and 11 p.m — all seven days of the week. On reaching his home, he follows a ritual, something in practice for the last two months.

“I head straight to a temporary arrangement made in front of the house for me to shower and wear fresh clothes. I make it a point not to touch anything around me at that time,” says Vasudevan. At least thrice a day, he makes a visit to his house at Gopalpuram, between work, and so, it is as many showers every day, and more. Even while relaxing at home, he maintains a strict distance from his family members, resting on a cot kept exclusively for him. He eats at Amma Canteen, except for dinner which is served at home.

“My family understands the precautions that ought to be taken on account of my work. They support me and my department’s encouragement is crucial for how well I carry out my work despite the various challenges,” says Vasudevan, who has been in the Public Health Department since 1992.

Five Corporation wards — 58, 59, 61, 62 and 63 — come under the limits of this sanitary inspector. The neighbourhoods include Satyavani Muthu (SM) Nagar opposite Island Grounds; Border Thottam; Egmore, Pudupet; Chindratripet; Triplicane (a portion of Ellis Road); Wall Tax Road; Broadway bus terminus and surrounding areas; Choolai; Periamet; and Club House Road, off Anna Salai.

Every day, on an average, 50 persons are screened for infection. Vasudevan does the initial check looking for symptoms such as fever, dry cough and respiratory problems before letting them in for sampling at the Corporation-run health unit office in Pudupet.

Results of the samplings are made known in 24 hours. Infected persons are quarantined at government-run facilities or in their houses. Health officials are required to keep an eye on them every day. In Pudupet unit alone, more than 500 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Corporation has 51 Sanitary Officers across its 15 zones, covering all 200 wards. Each SO is in charge of at least five wards. The SOs are supported by a team of 101 Sanitary Inspectors (SIs) with each SI taking care of at least two wards. Corporation enumerators are the last-line of the field staff who collect details relating to the health status of residents in the neighbourhood. Each enumerator is given at least 100 houses to follow up on a daily basis and report their findings to SOs. In Zone-5 (Royapuram) alone, 744 enumerators have been deployed for this purpose. Interestingly, the sanitary team within the Public Health Department also do their regular work including campaigns on dengue, malaria and infectious diseases, issuing birth and death certificate, food quality inspections especially at Amma Canteens and prevention of plastic usage.

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 4:41:29 AM |

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