Jorhat, Oct. 18: The Dibrugarh district unit of the All-Assam ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists Association) has resolved to take the initiative of uniting health workers across the state to add teeth to its demand for regularity in disbursing appointment letters and salary.
State working president of the association Subhash Sen said it was unfortunate that in Assam, three organisations of health activists were working in a disjointed manner and so lacked strength in putting forth their demands.
There are 29,000 accredited health activists in Assam and eight lakhs in the country.
“Health activists, who are doing a good job in the villages and are also on the job all the time, are being exploited by the government. They are given only an honorarium or an incentive of Rs 600 if they take care of a pregnant woman and Rs 150 if they help persuade a women to undergo sterilisation or if they complete the stipulated number of vaccines to be given to an infant after birth,” Sen said.
He said the government was neglecting health workers, whose task it was to better rural health, decrease maternal and infant mortality and help to control the population.
“Health activists are sometimes called upon to take expectant mothers to the nearest health centre at unearthly hours. They are on the job for 24 hours and have to be prepared to deal with all kind of health issues like burns and wounds, and keep a supply of oral rehydration sachets, chloroquine tablets, contraceptives and other healthcare facilities,” he added.
Accredited health activists, recruited as volunteer health workers under the National Rural Health Mission programme, are called on to provide a minimum package of curative care. They are supposed to make timely referrals, provide information to the community on determinants of health such as nutrition, basic sanitation and hygienic practices, healthy living and working conditions, information on existing health services and the need for timely utilisation of health and family welfare services.
They have to counsel pregnant women on birth preparedness, importance of safe delivery, breast-feeding and complementary feeding, immunisation, contraception and prevention of common infections, including reproductive tract infection/sexually transmitted infections and care of a young child.
Given how much the activist contributes to healthcare in rural areas, the association will demand Rs 11,000 minimum salary per month.
Sen said the Sixth Pay Commission had fixed Rs 6,542 as the minimum wage for a worker putting in eight hours of work. “We are demanding only Rs 11,000 going by the fact that they are called upon to do much more,” he said.
Another demand will be construction of ASHA bhawans at the health centres for ASHAs to take rest as they wait for a child to be born.
The Dibrugarh district unit also said it would support the all-India strike called on February 20 and 21, 2013 to press for these demands.