Senior officials, government employees’ unions and doctors’ associations say ambiguities in government orders have stymied the process and despite several representations, there are no formal clarifications issued by the government.
On April 4 last year, when healthcare workers refused to turn up for work fearing Covid-19 infection, the revenue department announced that all government employees dealing with prevention, management or treatment activities will be given an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh in addition to free treatment at government or private hospitals.
According to Greater Chennai Corporation statistics, only 51 of the 118 frontline workers who tested positive until May 31 have received Rs 2 lakh. Until now more than 1,000 employees of the civic body have tested positive. While they were all eligible for free treatment, said an official, they may not be eligible for the ex gratia as the order was valid until May 31.
The order was not reviewed after the set deadline. “There has been no response to our representations. Many applications are still pending,” said P Srinivasan, general secretary of Corporation Workers’ Red Flag Union. “While applications of contract employees weren’t processed, some others on permanent rolls did not even get their medical reimbursement,” he said. Vardharajan S, a 41-year-old sanitary worker, and permanent employee of the Greater Chennai Corporation, was admitted to a private hospital in Porur in April. “I was told my treatment will be covered under the employees insurance, but it was not. I paid Rs 1.9 lakh for treatment. Neither did I get a refund for treatment nor the ex gratia,” he said.
Several policemen, health workers and revenue department staff who were infected between April and May are yet to get ex gratia. According to the home department, nearly 10,000, including 2,700 from Chennai, tested positive for Covid-19.
On April 22, a press release from the state government said the CM has increased the solatium for frontline warriors in government service from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh and promised jobs for kin of Covid-19 victims. The relief referred to the central government insurance of Rs 50 lakh to family of the deceased. Four months later, a revenue department order, on August 5, cleared solatium of Rs 25 lakh to 28 legal heirs of Covid-19 victims from government service. “There were many problems with this order,” said Indian Medical Association national president Dr J A Jayalal. “First, it did not clarify how the amount was reduced to Rs 25 lakh. The reference in the GO quotes the chief minister’s press statement, which promised Rs 50 lakh,” he said.
Until now, of the 120 applications of Covid-19 victims sent to the revenue department, families of 37 people – including eight of 12 workers from corporation and 21 of 32 policemen — have received Rs 25 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. “On several occasions private hospitals were asked to fight the pandemic with the government, but none of the private doctors’ families were given Rs 25 lakh from CM’s relief fund. More than 80 doctors have succumbed to Covid-19. Families of private doctors have been told to apply for the Centre’s insurance scheme,” he said. “Our demand is that all healthcare providers should be given Rs 50 lakh from the Centre and Rs 25 lakh from state,” he said.
Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project director A Sivagnanam said 14 healthcare workers in the state have received the Rs 50 lakh from the Centre and seven more applications are pending. “Many were turned down because they found that applicants were not eligible. All doctors who died should have been on Covid duty. Some deceased doctors’ applications were rejected because weren’t even practising,” he said.