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Pandemic Management: Volunteers Support Service Delivery

In Health, Kerala
June 26, 2020

The contribution of over three lakh health workers and volunteers has been significant in Kerala’s widely-hailed management of COVID19 pandemic, without neglecting the medical needs and social security of people in general.

This strong network of social workers and care-givers complementing the state’s time-tested multi-tier health care system has been playing a critical role in providing relief to the hard-pressed, especially the elderly and high risk groups, ever since history’s severest health emergency began to unfold. Reaching out to the remotest corner of the state, this dedicated pool of human resource included ASHA workers, Palliative Care volunteers, Anganwadi workers and members of the Kudumbashree network.

They have been specially tasked to find out the needs of the vulnerable and report quickly to the nearest government hospital, so that they receive timely medical attention. During the house visits, it was found that many of them would have difficulty in getting the essential medicines and supplies due to the lockdown.

A team of 3,44,061 volunteers including 26,475 ASHA workers, 270267 Kudumbashree volunteers, 14,200 palliative care volunteers and 33,119 Anganwadi workers are engaged in providing services to the elderly and other vulnerable groups . One-month supply of NCD medicines were provided to all patients at their home.

The experience of this grass root level aid providers in relief works during past health emergencies like Nipah virus outbreak and natural disasters has equipped them to quickly go about and deliver services. The beneficiaries included the destitute families. There are about 1,54,858 such families in Kerala, which have 1,14,719 are elderly members of 60 years and above. Kudumbashree has enlisted 2176 resource persons to visit such families with elderly members once in five days, to enquire about their health and ensure that they get medical care through primary health centres.

To gear up the mechanism and co-ordinate the action, support of Local Self Government Institutions down to the panchayats, various government departments, police and professional bodies like Indian Medical Association and NGOs were enlisted. Home visit teams were constituted to ensure strict compliance with home isolation. The teams included health workers, health volunteers and police personnel. This has significantly helped in ensuring, the compliance with home isolation guidelines.

Psychosocial support teams were also formed under the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), since many persons under quarantine were having mental stress. Health volunteers registered through the National Health Mission in the state include a large number of medical and paramedical professionals.