THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Apprehensions are mounting among the health staff working at the Directorate of Health Services (DHS)-- the agency spearheading the fight against the pandemic in the state -- with the reporting of Covid-19 positive cases at the office in the state capital. Recently, two of the staff working at the DHS tested Covid-19 positive and one of them committed suicide by drowning himself. The other day, a third case was reported raising more concern.
A section of the staff, who are dissatisfied with the steps taken by the higher authorities to prevent the spread of the infection at the DHS, has come out with allegations that the higher authorities didn’t carry out disinfection drives efficiently. Also, allegations are rife that the staffer committed suicide because of harassment from the higher authorities.
It is learnt that normally when a Covid-19 case gets reported in any establishment, the entire office will be sealed for 48 hours to 72 hours for disinfection. “We have been asked to work in full strength from this week except for those in quarantine and they have no plan to seal the premises,” an official alleged.
On Friday, after Covid-19 cases were reported at the Poojappura Central Jail in Thiruvananthapuram, the authorities announced a total shutdown for three days to disinfect the entire premises.
“Several office premises including the Secretariat, police headquarters and assembly complex were kept sealed for two days and were reopened only after proper disinfection. However, at the DHS only the common areas and a few other spots where the patient had gathered were disinfected. Around 300 employees are working at the headquarters and only 100 antigen tests were conducted,” said a staff of DHS.
One of the staff alleged that the health inspector who died by suicide was mentally harassed by his higher authorities. “He was publicly criticised at an official meeting for coming to the office and putting other staff at risk of contracting the infection,” alleged the employee. Responding to the allegations raised by the employees, DHS director Dr R L Saritha told TNIE that the allegations are baseless.
“I supervised the disinfection drive. All these protocols are prepared by us and as the head of the department, I will never put any of the employees or myself at risk of contracting the infection,” said Saritha.She said that the staff can contact her if they have any apprehensions. “We have started helpline numbers in every district across the state exclusively for healthcare staff for mental health assistance. They can also contact these helpline numbers,” Saritha added.
Trigger for suicide?
One of the staff alleged that the health inspector who died by
suicide was mentally harassed by his higher authorities. “He was publicly criticised at an official meeting for coming to the office and putting other staff at risk of contracting the infection,” alleged the staffer.