New Delhi: The massive second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that jolted the country a couple of months ago brought to the fore the huge shortage of trained non-medical manpower in the health sector.
From general duty assistants, who provide patients daily care, to phlebotomist (assistants to medical laboratory technologists) to technicians for maintenance of oxygen plants, among others, the crunch in available staff was visible everywhere.
Not wanting to be caught off-guard in case a third Covid wave hits, the Narendra Modi government has now started the process of identifying and training over 1,17,000 people for various healthcare roles.
These include training 1 lakh healthcare workers in six specific job roles — general duty assistants, general duty advanced, phlebotomist, emergency medical technician, home healthcare aid and maintenance of medical equipment like ventilators and oxygen concentrators.
Moreover, around 15,000 people will be trained to help in maintenance of oxygen plants, ventilators and oxygen concentrators. Another 2,500 drivers will be trained to run oxygen tankers.
“The second wave of the pandemic not only showed how ill equipped we are when it comes to having dedicated oxygen plants for hospitals, oxygen concentrators, etc but also exposed the lack of trained manpower to handle them. We don’t want to be caught in a similar situation again,” said a senior government official, who didn’t want to be named.
According to sources, the Union Ministry of Skill Development is managing the pilot training programme.
A road map of the plan was also presented earlier this month to the Empowered Group on Augmenting Human Resources & Capacity Building, headed by Labour Secretary Apurva Chandra. This is among the 11 empowered groups that were reconstituted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on 29 May for Covid management.
What the plan looks like
Government sources privy to the development said the Health Sector Council, one of the 38 sector skills councils set up by National Skill Development Corporation, has tied up with 400 training partners to prepare abridged courses comprising three weeks classroom, followed by three months on the job training for the 1 lakh healthcare workers.
“The training material has been prepared and we have identified the training partners. We are writing to all the district magistrates in states to identify people who can be trained,” a senior skill development ministry official told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
Once the training is completed, they can be hired by both government and private sectors according to their requirements, the official added.
“These are not dead investments. There is a shortage of trained manpower in the health sector. Even if there is no third wave, there is a huge requirement for trained health care personnel,” said an official who is a member of the empowered group.
Besides the 1 lakh healthcare personnel, another 15,000 people from industrial training institutes (ITIs) will be trained to maintain oxygen plants that are being set up across India.
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur is helping set up 500 such oxygen plants in the country.
“These plants require trained personnel, who have to be available round the clock for maintenance activities. We will have three shifts, with each shift having 2-3 people,” the ministry official said.
These people will be given a two-week orientation in managing oxygen plants. IIT Kanpur has prepared guidelines on how to maintain oxygen plants. It will also train the master trainers, who will train the others.
For maintaining ventilators and oxygen concentrators, the skill development ministry is tying up with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for training the ITI graduates. “The ministry is developing the training module in consultation with the OEMs,” the official said.
The government is also creating a pool of 2,500 trained drivers for running oxygen tankers.
“Unlike driving normal passenger or commercial vehicles, running oxygen taker requires special training. There are approximately 1,200 oxygen tankers and for that we are creating a pool of trained drivers,” the official added.