Asha workers to send timely updates on patients from mobile phones

The State government’s move to provide sophisticated mobile phones to nearly 35,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (Asha workers) in the State, will help the Department of Health and Family Welfare to keep track of the happenings in remote areas where these workers render their services.

Reproductive Child Health Project Director Dr H C Ramesh who spoke to Deccan Herald said presently the department was unable to gather information and feedback. However, with communication made easy, the Asha workers will now be asked to send time-to-time update about the patients including pregnant women who have registered themselves under various schemes.

Dr Ramesh said that these workers would be given Java-enabled phones. “Procurement procedure is on. We had called for tenders and brands like Nokia, Karbon and Lemon have come forward,” he said.

These mobile phones will require installation of an application for sending information. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been entrusted with the responsibility of designing the application and keep a check on its functionalities.

“We have selected a few models. Technical aspects like compatibility of the application with the models need to be looked into,” he added. The application is being designed keeping user convenience in mind.

Dr Ramesh said the application would have templates of messages that Asha workers ought to send. The application will also have a drop-down menu with options. “With this, they will not have to type out each message. These messages will directly be routed to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) department through a server,” he said.

The phones will be provided with the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited sim cards. Over 16,000 workers have already been given the sim cards while the rest will get it soon, he added.

Earlier, this month, Health Minister U T Khader had said that all the 35,000 Asha workers would be given mobile phones.

He had said that the workers would be provided Closed User Group SIM cards under the NRHM for faster communication.

Training programme

The Department of Health and Family Welfare will also train the workers on the functional aspects of the application. “Training will happen through satellite communication. There will be a live demo for the workers who will be divided into groups. Nearly, 30 to 40 members in each taluk will be grouped for the programme,” Ramesh added.

Protest at Vidhana Soudha

Asha workers staged a protest in front of Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday. Over 1,600 Asha workers have been demanding monthly salaries and not incentive type payment, reimbursement of phone calls made to hospitals and the department and also insurance cover, employment security, separate office at PHCs, food and security during work.

Asha Worker’s Association Union Secretary Malini said minister for health and family welfare had sought time to resolve the issue. “He has told us he will fix a date for discussion. However, we will carry this forward till the meeting is arranged,” she added.
Asha workers were recruited after Centre launched National Rural Health Mission Scheme. The order was passed in 2005 and in Karnataka, the workers were put in place from 2008 onwards.

Malini alleged that even as five other states did have a scheduled salary payment system, Karnataka did not. Department of Health & Family Welfare Director Geetha Nyamagoudar said even though top officials met them and gave assurance, their protest has continued.
“They are asked to withdraw it and resume to work. Since it has not happened, we will take the issue to health ministry and principal secretary of the department and take a decision.”

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