Health services hit as 108 ambulance workers’ stir enters second day

Bhubaneswar: With the indefinite cease work called by the workers of 108 Ambulance service demanding fulfillment of their seven-point charter of demands entering the second day today, health services have been affected in some parts of the state. The situation is expected to worsen in the coming days.

The demands include payment of minimum guaranteed wages, 15 per cent annual increment and construction of rest houses for the employees.

Keeping the indefinite strike called by the members of the emergency service in views, officials of the National Health Mission (NHM) and service providing firm Ziqitza Health Service (ZHS) are on their toes to avoid any untoward incidents.

The service firm and NHM have deployed pharmacists, police and other officials, who have not participated in the stir, in the emergency service.

Meanwhile, the state government appears to have toughened its stand on the strike with Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak hinting at invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if the agitating staff did not back off.

“The government is well aware about their problems, which are under consideration. I appeal to them to call off the strike and resume work,” the Health minister said adding ESMA may be invoked, if required.

“As per our knowledge, the company has hiked their salary and has taken measures to fulfill their demands. Despite this, if they try to affect the health care, strict action will be taken,” Nayak pointed out.

On Wednesday, employees of the 108 ambulance service had staged protests wearing black badges in front of Collector’s offices in districts. They had also staged a protest at Lower PMG square demanding fulfillment of their demands.

After the strike call, the Health Minister and Chief Secretary AP Padhi had discussed with the district collectors and SPs via videoconferencing possible measures to meet the situation that could arise out of the strike of the 108 ambulance services staff on Wednesday.

“The district collectors have been asked to make alternative arrangements to meet the crisis arising out of the on-going strike,” the Health minister said.