Some of the 72 individuals complained to Pajhwok Afghan News, saying their right had been encroached upon. But MoPH insisted under the procedure, 72 nurses and drivers of the 12 ambulances deserved the privilege (risk fee).
Kabul Ambulance officials also insist the money has been distributed to all employees of the department in agreement with the 72 deserving workers. The payments were shared after complaints from other workers.
According to MoPH, at least 43,240 positive cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Afghanistan since March 2019. At least 1,617 people have lost their lives to the virus while 35,094 others have recovered from it.
Previously, hundreds of positive cases of coronavirus were recorded daily in Afghanistan. But currently the daily tally has fallen to dozens. About three months ago, a survey by MoPH found 10 million Afghans had been infected with the disease.
During the outbreak of the virus in Afghanistan, lockdown was imposed and most offices, educational centres and markets were closed. Some health centre employees were paid for working in a risky environment
“Our right has gone to others”
A nurse of the Kabul Ambulance, who declined to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News in accordance with the principles and procedures, the MoPH had decided to pay a certain amount of money (risk fee) to 72 nurses and drivers of 12 ambulances who were directly contacting the patients of Covid-19.
He added more than 122,000 afghanis were allocated to each of 36 nurses in return for their work over four solar months (Hamal, Sawer, Jawza and Saratan) and over 48,000 afghanis for each of 36 drivers during the period.
According to him, while the 72 nurses and drivers were in direct contact with Covid-19 patients and deaths, other employees of the department made a fuss and demanded the risk fee.
He said the 72 individuals agreed that the money transferred to them should be divided to the 120 nurses and drivers of all 20 ambulances belonging to the department.
But the 12-member committee formed at the request of the department’s leadership decided to distribute the privileges to all 158 Kabul Ambulance staff, including administrative staff, he explained.
“After pressure and threats, administrative staff persuaded the deserving 72 employees to distribute the privileges to all (158) Kabul Ambulance staff,” he maintained.
The deserving employee said, as the privilege had been transferred to the bank accounts of the 72 employees, Kabul Ambulance officials collected bank cards of the 72 individuals and withdrew the money.
“After withdrawing the money, they distributed it to all. Each nurse received more 54,000 afghanis and each driver and worker was paid nearly 19,000 afghanis,” he informed.
Mohammad Ismail, another Kabul ambulance nurse, said the money was distributed to all while only 72 individuals were entitled to the risk fee for being in direct contract with Covid-19 patients and fatalities.
He claimed the 72 nurses and drivers of the 12 ambulances, working in three shifts, had agreed to share their privilege with other employees.
A Kabul ambulance driver, who did not want to be named for fear of losing his job, said: “They threatened all 72 nurses and drivers to agree to the distribution of their privileges. But now they say we have reached an agreement with them. Who is willing to give his right to others that have not worked?”
He added during the outbreak of Covid-19, lives of nurses and drivers were at risk, but their privilege (risk fee) was distributed to all employees of the office. Other deserving nurses and drivers held similar views.
Money distribution based on agreement
Dr. Alam Asim, head of the Kabul Ambulance Service, acknowledged MoPH had provided risk fee to 72 nurses and drivers. A total of 120 employees of this department were on duty operating 20 ambulances, and there were 20 other workers, taking the overall number of workers to 140. They were in some way in contact with 72 individuals who worked on the front line during the outbreak of Covid-19.
As a matter of fact, all Kabul ambulance employees deserved the risk fee, because unlike other departments, they discharged their duties during the lockdown and stayed in touch with those who directly contacted patients.
He said the department had repeatedly offered MoPH to pay the risk fee to all employees of this office; but the offer was not accepted and the ministry said it was unable to pay all staff members.
Asim, who also received 54,000 afghanis in risk fee, asked why the rights of the 72 individuals were distributed to all employees. “There would be chaos and a number of employees warned of going on strike and quitting their jobs if only 72 nurses and drivers were given privileges.”
He said the fund was distributed among all employees based on the agreement of 72 individuals.
He asked the MoPH to transfer the risk fee to all employees, if possible, so each nurse and administrative worker received 122,000 afghanis and each driver 48,000 afghanis.
MoPH: Only 72 deserve privileges
Dr. Akmal Samsour, a spokesman for MoPH, said according to a ministry plan, at different health centers, the workers who had direct contact with Covid-19 patients and fatalities of were identified and 72 ambulance drivers found deserving of risk fee.
“As the right of the 72 individuals has been divided to all employees as all Kabul Ambulance Service worked during the outbreak of the coronavirus, it is the internal decision of the department and the ministry cannot intervene,” he argued.
Samsour said the ministry could not provide concessions to other Kabul ambulance staff based on facilities and procedures, because other employees did not deserve it.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP.