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‘Because of our small efforts, lives could be saved’: AMC’s women staff work tirelessly

Foramben Patel, 33, an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), working at Nikol Urban Health Centre (UHC) run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), has been working tirelessly for a year. She is among over 14 per cent of the over 2,500 women health workers of the AMC infected with Covid-19 in the line of duty.

As per the data accessed by The Indian Express, of over 2,900 medical staff at AMC’s urban health centres, over 2,500 are women health staff, including medical officers, physicians, surgeons, radiologists, pharmacists, lab technicians, staff nurses, X-ray technicians ASHA and ANM workers. Among them, more than 360 were infected with coronavirus.

An ANM for the past three years, Foramben was on Covid duty even before the first case was reported in Gujarat. Initially, asked to track foreign passengers to the state, the first passenger she tracked was on February 2, 2020.

“We had to take the entire travel history of the passengers who had returned from foreign countries, covering more than 25 in a day… We had to track them for 14 days and have even sat outside their homes from 9 am to 5 pm ensuring that they don’t step out and fetching essentials for them,” Foramben says.

Recalling the first day of lockdown, she says, “Nikol area saw the highest number of passengers — over 250 — to track. The day when the entire country was beating thali and plates, we were surveying passengers, ccollecting even the minutest of details,” she adds.

Foramben resumed her studies after a gap of eight years and took up job a month after her second delivery. Divorced from her first marriage due to the age-old tradition followed by certain communities in Gujarat where if one gets divorced, his/her sibling has to be separated, too.

“My brother and sister-in-law got divorced and hence, my husband divorced me. I married again in 2015 and joined the ANM course in Ahmedabad the same year. I have a daughter from my first marriage who is in Class 10 and a son born in 2018 from my second marriage. I had to take a break of a year after completing the course when I conceived. But after the delivery, I joined work within one month,” she says.

While both her sisters-in-law are nurses, her husband Maulikbhai, a native of Munai village in Bhiloda taluka of Aravalli district, is an X-ray technician in Ahmedabad.

On September 1, 2020, she tested positive for coronavirus and was admitted to an AMC-requistioned private hospital for more than a week. The month saw majority of the 24 staff members at her UHC getting infected.

“For one year the work load was unbearable but it was an opportunity to serve people… because of our small efforts, lives could be saved,” Formaben says with pride.

Along with a fresh survey of cases and residents due to surge in cases, ANM workers are now being roped in for the Covid-19 vaccination drive as well.

“The period of fear and anxiety is over now and I see healthy and prosperous days ahead,” she says as she moves on for her vaccination duty after reporting to health manager Dr Sandhya Gohil at the AMC’s Arogya Bhawan.

Dr Gohil, 37, is another frontline worker who was infected in November 2020, along with her 68-year-old father-in-law. Living in a joint family with brother and sister-in-law helped her to cope up with the stress and anxiety.

Over 400 ASHA workers and 100 ANM workers under her in 14 UHCs covering a population of over 10 lakh in the north zone, she says Naroda was majorly affected by the virus.

“When the spread of Covid was in peak, I was looking after tracking foreign returned passengers, identifying their areas, to survey and process the data. Later I was handling AMC teams for RT-PCR tests — sample collection, line list and recording of results. This never-ending testing and survey process continued with RAT,” she says.

Adding that they have even worked without a break for more than 14 hours, even today she is always available on call. “Even when I got infected and was isolated at home, I did not stop working,” she says.

Now, as vaccination drive progresses, Dr Gohil is looking after the CoWIN app. She is responsible for creating sessions at every 14 UHC, software entry, supervise those who were vaccinated, to tackle any software related issues and also to encourage vaccination in areas that are reporting less numbers of residents coming out to get vaccinated.

All women health workers of the AMC who served during the pandemic and have similar stories to tell, are proud of the part they could play, and are looking forward to a Covid-free world.


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