Volunteers close to Covid, far from health schemes

Covid-19 Health

Covid volunteers are not covered under the government’s Covid warrior schemes. Some of them are finding it difficult to find beds on being tested positive.

Covid volunteers who worked with the government during the pandemic are not included in government insurance schemes or any other medical privileges.

Nandini. V, a non-medical Covid volunteer said, “I wasn’t given any support for medical needs, it was really needed, thankfully I did not face any serious health issues, but in case of uncertainty, I wish we had some assistance from hospitals.” She added that there are no medical schemes for the Covid volunteers.

Balasundar, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Chief Health Officer (CHO) said that the government has announced to give Rs. 1.5 lakhs to the families of any deceased medical volunteers. However, the non-medical volunteers are not covered under the same. He added that there are plans to help the non-medical volunteers with some schemes.

The government has health systems and insurance programmes in place for doctors and other medical personnel, but they do not include volunteers, according to Dr. N. Manohar, District Health Officer, Bengaluru Urban.

United Nations (UN) conducted a study of volunteers in eight countries including India. It said, “The study clearly shows that when the world needed them, volunteers stepped up: more than three quarters of adults across the eight countries said that they had participated in volunteering activities over the past year.”

Bhagya Shalini, National Service Scheme (NSS) Bengaluru Secretary said, “As we know that during this pandemic all migrant workers are having a very tough time, the government has taken steps to send them back. To help the government perform more effectively, these volunteers have given their best.” However, the NSS volunteers who joined the government were also not covered under the health insurance or monetary schemes of the government.

Sasikumar, member of the International Human Rights Commission said that a few volunteers took to the stage of volunteering keeping their personal life aside. “Volunteers worked in traffic management, ambulance maintenance, cleared dead bodies and so on. Most of them were people who belonged to the middle-income group or low-income group. Undergoing the worse situation, these people came forward to help others. In this case, the government must compulsorily extend schemes to them. This will encourage them.”

Balasundar said that volunteers helped the authorities in better management of the Covid situation in all areas. He said that the volunteers reached out to Covid positive patients at their door-steps, and gave them medicines.

Pinkesh Kumar, a Covid volunteer said that his team under the BBMP, Covid Marshals had to volunteer in railway stations, airports and bus stations where risk of infection is higher.

UN study said that unemployed people were likely to volunteer less than in the previous year, possibly because they struggled to meet their own basic needs. Despite the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, people made plans to volunteer more this year, the report said. The UN report also states that the findings serve to remind policymakers of the economic and social value of volunteering which goes beyond the labour provided and services delivered.

Kumar said, “If anytime we feel sick, we get tested and till the result comes, we quarantine ourselves. Government guidelines suggested institutional quarantine or admission to Covid Care Centres when tested positive.” But volunteers also said that they had tough time finding beds in government hospitals when they or any of their family members test positive.

Sasikumar said that, “There are lots of volunteers who are the sole earning member of the family. So the government has to think about them and has to increase the benefits to them on a timely basis.”

The Indian Government has announced they will include Covid volunteers under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package. Andhra Pradesh government announced a health insurance scheme for the covid volunteers in addition to the union government’s package. Other states like Orissa, Haryana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have their own state based schemes for the non-medical covid volunteers for their treatments and insurance coverage.