COVID-19 in Mumbai: Health workers at Nesco covid hub protest move to relocate them
BL Soni

Protesting a move by the BMC to relocate them to a place where social distancing would prove to be an issue as would shared toilet facilities, staff from the NESCO Jumbo Covid centre at Goregaon in Mumbai staged a protest on Sunday.

According to the protesters, neither the boarding nor the lodging was up to the mark in the new location; sharing common toilet facilities meant the risk of infection, as they were handling corona patients. Civic officials said they had noted the protesters’ demands and would shortly address the issues of concern.

One of the employees said the civic body was planning to shift them to a place where more than 20 people could stay but maintaining social distancing would be difficult. Further, they have not been getting proper food and transportation, among other things. “On the one hand, the civic body is spreading a message to follow social distancing to keep Covid at bay. But we are being transported in a bus with more than 50 people daily and the fear of contracting the infection looms large as we work non-stop in Covid wards,” said Sakshi Rathod, a nurse at the NESCO Covid Centre.

She further said their main aim in protesting was to draw attention to their demands, which were not being fulfilled by the BMC. Each time they only got empty assurances, she said. This time however, the protesters insisted their demands be fulfilled with immediate effect. “We are far from our family and handling Covid patients at the centres and here, not even our basic, normal demands are fulfilled. Many of our colleagues have tested positive and we do not want to live in groups. Currently, everyone has a separate flat with a toilet in it, but the BMC wants us to stay in a hall, which we refused to do and protested,” Rathod added.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, since the pandemic began, staffers had been given accommodation in a MHADA building in Unnat Nagar, Goregaon. But now MHADA wants back those flats, as these have already been allocated to people. Initially, the flats were lent as it was thought the pandemic would abate in a little while, a premise which has proved to be fallacious. Since the end of the health crisis is nowhere in sight, it was decided to shift all these Covid centre staffers to another place, following which the staffers staged a protest.

“We are providing all the necessary facilities to the staffers dedicatedly handling the patients at Covid centres in the city. We have spoken to MHADA, requesting them to allow the staffers to remain in their current places until new accommodation is found. MHADA has agreed and for now, the staff will not have to move,” he said.

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