Beneath the siren, ambulance workers battle discrimination and risk to save lives amidst pandemic

One thing all the workers had in common was facing discrimination from their neighbours and relatives.

Published: 27th June 2021 12:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th June 2021 12:58 AM   |  A+A-

An ambulance driver at work.

An ambulance driver at work. (Photo |EPS)

Express News Service

VILLUPURAM: The second wave of the Covid outbreak sparked fear and uncertainty in almost everyone, but those on the front line couldn't afford to give in to their feelings despite watching patients suffer, gasp for air, and sometimes even die. Express spoke to a few workers on '108' ambulances to find out what was going on in their minds.

"My father passed away when I was young, so I have to support by mother and two siblings. This is why I do my job though it is risky and stressful. But when we get a patient safe to hospital, knowing a life has been saved makes all the stress worth it," said a 24-year old emergency medical technician working on a ventilator ambulance in Villupuram.

Her role is similar to that of a nurse, but she works in a moving vehicle. She recently had to shift an 8-month-old with multiple organs damaged, from Villupuram to JIPMER in Puducherry within an hour-and-a-half, and nursed the baby in the ambulance.

The driver of a dedicated Covid ambulance said he had to leave behind his pregnant wife and four-year-old son when he was on duty. "Even our neighbours and relatives didn't help them as they were scared of contracting the virus from me and my family. My wife said the neighbours used to even cover their faces when passing our house. It was humiliating, but my family knew it was important for me to save lives. Faith in God kept us going. There were no Covid deaths in my shift," he said.

One thing all the workers had in common was facing discrimination from their neighbours and relatives. Women workers also said it was difficult to use the restroom when on Covid duty.

The executive of '108' ambulances in the district, K Arulraj, said, "About 32 ambulances are run in the district and the staff work on an 8 am-8 pm shift basis. About 15 staff tested positive last year and recovered. We give them enough leave and an isolation period to keep the team safe. The first thing I was concerned about was the safety and mental stability of my team members. There were times when they felt hopeless, but I used to encourage them. It was all a team effort."


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