Health workers deployed at Covid-19 front line deprived of risk allowance in SyangjaMost local units have not disbursed risk allowance to its health workers while some haven’t even paid their full salary.
Hum Bahadur Rana has been working in the frontline as a lab technician in Kaligandaki Rural Municipality, Syangja, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. As per an announcement made by the Ministry of Health and Population, health workers deployed in the frontline are to get a risk allowance equivalent to their salary. However, he has not received any allowance so far.
“I have been hearing about health workers getting allowances from the start of the pandemic. But I haven't received it until now,” said Rana. “How many times should I ask for the allowance?”
Rana is an auxiliary health worker by profession. But since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has been working as a lab technician.
“I am collecting swab samples of suspected individuals in quarantine and isolation facilities. I am the only one deployed here to do the job,” Rana said.
Kaligandaki Rural Municipality had appointed Rana at Rs 18,000 salary per month on a contract basis.
“I don’t even know how much money I’m due to get as risk allowance,” said Rana.
The Ministry of Health and Population had committed to providing a risk allowance equivalent to the salary of health workers—doctors, nurses and lab technicians—involved in the sample collection, testing and treatment of Covid-19 patients. Other staff deployed in contact tracing and caring of Covid-19 patients were also supposed to get 50 percent of their salary as risk allowance.
Syangja is ranked a high-risk district in Gandaki Province in terms of total cases of Covid-19. A total of 338 people have been infected with the virus in the district so far. But the majority of the local units in Syangja have not provided risk allowance to health workers. Only a couple of local units have been providing allowances to some health workers.
Likewise, health workers in Bhirkot Municipality have also not received any risk allowances. Kashmira Khanal, a lab technician in the municipality, said, “I have only received Rs 20,000 in total since the start of the pandemic. I have asked the municipality for a risk allowance but have yet to receive any.”
Nokamaya Gurung, a lab technician in Biruwa Rural Municipality, also says that he too hasn’t received any risk allowance.
“I have been working for a monthly salary of Rs 12,000. I have yet to receive the salary of almost three months, let alone get a risk allowance,” said Gurung. “I would be happy if the municipality just gave me my full salary on time.”
Health workers in Andhikhola Rural Municipality also complained that they have been deprived of risk allowance.
Yam Prasad Sharma, chief at District Health Office in Syangja, said, “Every health worker by now should have received Rs 100,000 as risk allowance taking into account that we are almost six months into the pandemic. But not all local units are providing the allowance to health workers. Our office has directed all local units to give risk allowance to health workers.”
According to Sharma, there is a discrepancy in the salary of health workers across the district.
“Some of the local units are paying health workers a monthly salary of Rs 24,000 to Rs 26,000 and also providing allowances. But other local units haven’t even been paying their health workers monthly salaries on time,” he said.
Khim Thapa, chairman of Kaligandaki Rural Municipality, said the health workers haven’t received their risk allowance because of a “technicality issue”.
“Our local unit started releasing risk allowance to the health workers before any other local units in the district,” he said. “But in order to receive the allowance, the health workers have to open an account in the District Treasury Controller Office and most of the health workers haven’t done that.”
Meanwhile, Chhayaram Khanal, mayor at Bhirkot Municipality, claimed that his municipality has been providing allowances equivalent to 50 to 100 percent of their salaries to health workers.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.