Health workers battle abuse and threats too

Deployed on the front line of COVID-19 containment activities, health inspectors and ASHA (accredited social health activist)workers are facing enormous pressure these days. Quarantine is no easy task for many and the health-care staff often find themselves at the receiving end of their anger.

While they have been tolerating verbal abuses and threats, rising incidents of violence, including assaults, have left the members worried.

“While checking on those in quarantine or spreading awareness, they have to endure a lot of hostility. All districts have reported such incidents. Strict legal action should be taken to ensure their safety,” says P.R. Balagopal, State general secretary, Kerala State Health Inspector’s Association .

While a youth barged into the house of an ASHA worker and attacked her in Thriuvananthapuram last week, two health inspectors from Kollam and a volunteer from Malappuram were manhandled on Thursday and Friday.

“A ward member informed us that a family at Sasthamcotta is throwing a birthday bash and they have guests from Pathanamthitta. They arrived in vehicles against the lockdown norms and when we sought details they abused us,” says junior health inspector Shibu. The family refused to give details of the visitors.

“There were four men and one of them snatched the mobile phone of my superior Sunilraj and smashed a window glass. They threatened to file a complaint against us for trespassing and damaging property. Then they started beating us after locking the gate.” Panchayat officials and the police rescued the staff, who were later hospitalised.

ASHA workers say their challenges start from making routine phone calls to visiting those in quarantine. “A family from Malta kept shouting every time I called them. However, there are many who offer total cooperation,” says Lissy from Ernakulam.

A bigger battle

Quarantined persons vent their anger at them and some even threaten to harm them after the lockdown. But we keep advising our women to ignore most such incidents since we are engaged in a battle for survival,” says L. Geetha, State general secretary, ASHA Workers’ Union.

Problems compound when people are not willing to listen. “There are many who believe in quacks and think that COVID-19 is no serious threat. They first question our authority and if we insist, they abuse us. Ninety per cent of the incidents are settled at the local body office or police station. You get to hear only a few,” says Vineeth from Kozhikode.

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 8:07:34 PM |

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