Meghalaya: 157 contractual hospital workers dismissed, salaries unpaid
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Tura: In a sensational development, albeit a little old, at least 157 contractual workers employed in various capacities in many different hospitals in the state have been dismissed from service following the medical department’s decision not to renew their contracts.

The employees, all 157 of them, were recruited into the department during the time of COVID-19 and continued to work as lab technicians, blood bank operators, and emergency workers until they were forced out of their jobs. What has been even more distressing for them is the fact that at least 6 months’ worth of salaries for these employees are still outstanding since their forced exit.

According to sources, the employees were unceremoniously dismissed from service in September after repeated attempts by the Department of Health Services (DHS) to try to keep them in service went unanswered.

Prior to their dismissal, thousands of workers under the department faced similar exits after the threat of the COVID pandemic had subsided. However, many were retained in their positions in Garo-Khasi-Jaintia Hills to improve services. Their contribution, according to department sources, was immense in ensuring seamless medical delivery.

Since their departure, the situation in various Civil Hospitals and CHCs has regressed to what it was before COVID.

Interestingly, after most of the COVID-19 employees were terminated, the ones retained were no longer designated as COVID warriors. Their roles were changed to Emergency Care Services, reflecting their significant contribution to seamless medical services.

“While emergency and laboratory services used to be available 24/7, they are now only offered for about 12 hours due to a lack of staff. Multiple memos and submissions have been made to the medical and state authorities to extend the contracts of these employees for the sake of seamless healthcare, but it does not appear to be a priority for the state. So, they have been dismissed,” said a highly placed source from the medical department, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

What has agitated those removed from their jobs has been the non-payment of their salaries. The aggrieved former employees even wrote to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma earlier last week, seeking the release of their pending salaries. To their dismay, they have not received a reply on the issue yet.

“We have been thrown out of our jobs and are now not being paid what is due to us. This money could have helped us cope with the current situation we are in until we found something better. Now no one knows when our dues will be cleared or if they will be cleared at all. This is exasperating, to say the least,” said a former employee, again speaking on the condition of anonymity.

According to senior officials of various hospitals, many new services are expected to be affected due to the contractual workers being let go.

“These staff members have been trained to operate services like oxygen plants and new ICU units for newborns, blood units, most of which were set up after COVID. We have submitted justifications for retaining them to the government, including the minister, but there has been no response from them,” added a senior official from DHS.

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Of the 157 terminated health workers, 22 were from Shillong Civil Hospital, 11 from Tura Civil, and 3 from Ampati Civil. The remaining CHCs and Civil Hospitals made up the numbers. Those who were terminated included lab technicians, ICU, OT, dialysis, and ECG technicians, highlighting the critical nature of the state’s loss.

“Things have already regressed to pre-COVID times when there were long queues at all government hospitals, and its impact is already being felt. Most departments are almost falling apart. The state’s medical infrastructure could have benefitted from the continued employment of these workers. Now we can only reminisce about what could have been,” another official expressed.

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