It was on 6th April 2020 that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced with great pomp a 20 per cent hike in salary for 3 months to all the Covid frontline healthcare workers, and assured them an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh. Sawant had said that this was being done as a way of thanking and appreciating the service provided by those in the frontline. This could be a tiny consolation for healthcare workers who battled the virus in challenging times, especially during the early days when Covid symptoms and transmission were relatively unknown. But it still mattered, and it was paramount that the government keep its promise.
If we may recall, doctors, nurses, housekeeping and cleaning staff, ambulance and security staff and even sweepers, stood up to the grim situation the State was faced with. There were life-threatening challenges, at times working without PPE kits and other protective gear. The fear, anxiety, pain and stigma took a back seat in this timeless battle against an unknown enemy. Some worked overtime, others went without breaks and camped inside hospital premises for months serving humanity. Statistics reveal that 468 healthcare staff had been infected during the pandemic with Goa Medical College and Hospital accounting for 290 cases.
A year later, the only memories that these workers are left to cherish are the few words of praise, just like the petal shower they received from the hovering choppers. The promised increment in salary and the insurance has not come even after one year. In May 2020, the CM stated that the proposal had been granted an in-principle approval, while details are being sought from the directorate of health services and GMC about beneficiaries. A question tabled on March 30 on whether the government has hiked salaries of frontline healthcare workers by 20 per cent had the health minister replied that the matter is presently under consideration for seeking financial concurrence. To another question on the number of staff covered under the Rs 50 lakh insurance cover, the reply is that the matter is under examination.
It is a dishonour to the real warriors when the CM goes about playing Santa doling out goodies to all sections in his budget filling up his election vault but doesn’t show any courtesy to those who truly deserved acknowledgement. It is a dishonour for these workers whose services have been forgotten in a quick time.
Against this background, it is disheartening for the Covid warriors to pick up from where they left, because the battle resumes. The virus is picking up momentum once again and could be more damaging this time because of the newer strains. Hospitals are running full, and cases are increasing daily. If there were fear and caution, this year we saw fearlessness and carelessness, and that makes the job of healthcare even tougher.
While Goa braces up for another fight against the virus, the government must salute the healthcare sector, and not only honour its promise, but show genuine concern. Do not pay lip service.