Delhi

Beyond their reach

A health worker gives polio drop to a baby at Government Health Centre in Bamnoli village.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

In Bamnoli village, about five km from Dwarka Sector 23 police station, just one government health centre caters to nearly 10,000 residents. It is the go-to place for all COVID-related problems.

Inside the dispensary, roughly the size of a two-bedroom house, a room on the left is for COVID testing, and on the right is the observation area for the vaccinated. It is also where those getting tested wait. A few civil defence volunteers are trying unsuccessfully to separate the two sets of people.

Though it has been a fortnight after vaccination opened for the 18-45 age group, the dispensary is only vaccinating those above 45. There are two government schools in the village, but those have not been converted into vaccination centres.

The Medical Officer and in-charge of the dispensary, Lakshmi, says it is tough to maintain social distancing inside the premises. “Those who come for testing and vaccination stay in the same area because there is no space. People also come in to take medicines as well. It poses a huge threat to their safety,” she says, adding that she herself got infected and recovered only a few days ago.

“Policymakers should see the reality on the ground before making decisions. I have shared this problem with a local politician also,” says Dr. Lakshmi.

Not so serious

Another problem in the villages, she claims, is a lack of awareness and seriousness about the infection. “A day before, a positive patient himself came here to take medicines. When we told him that he should have sent someone else, he said that if his family members come, then they might get infected. There needs to be a mass awareness programme in villages to educate people about not spreading the virus,” she observes.

The dispensary doesn’t vaccinate people on Wednesdays and Fridays because infants are immunised on those days. However, the COVID-19 testing continues. “We are scared to come here because of testing. But we can’t afford to go to private hospitals,” says a one-year-old boy’s mother, who didn’t wish to be named.

Vaccine shortage

Another healthcare worker, on the condition of anonymity, says that for the last few days, they have not been getting enough vaccines and are turning down people. “About four days ago, we were getting 150-160 vaccines and were entertaining people who were coming without booking slots because a majority of the population here doesn’t know how to use the Internet and have to depend on others to book their slots. But since then, we have been asked to stop at 50 vaccines for those who come without registration and 50 slots are opened online,” the official says.

It is very difficult to counsel the elderly that they can’t be vaccinated because the rules have changed, she adds.

Shakunatala, a 60-year-old resident of the village who had covered her face with a dupatta, came to the dispensary asking the officials if she can get her second dose on Thursday as she would complete two months. But was asked to come a month later. “I got my first dose on March 20 and I came here on April 20 for the second but they turned me away and said that I should come a month later. Will they vaccinate me once I get COVID?” she asks.

Living in fear

Living right opposite the dispensary is 35-year-old Satpal Singh with his wife, a three-year-old daughter, a two-month-old son and an elderly mother. He has stopped using his front gate because people who come for COVID testing queue up right outside his residence. “They sit on our porch. They also blow their nose and spit. It is so dangerous. We had also written to the district administration to shift the testing to school but nothing happened,” he says.

Mr. Satpal and his wife haven’t been able to get vaccinated because slots are unavailable. He has tried several times but to no avail. “For us, the nearest centres are two in Bijwasan and one in Shahdad Mohammadpur, which are 5 km and 7 km away respectively. Another is inside Dwarka city, which is farther,” he says.

Sonu (24), the only person in his family who knows how to use a smartphone, says he has to book slots for three family members but there is no availability.

Ram Narayan, a government employee, who has three children in the 18-45 age group, is furious at the non-availability of slots in the category. “There is only one dispensary in the village and they are not vaccinating people in that age group. There is no other facility here. What should we do? Where should we go?” fumes the 54-year-old.

“On phone, when we call someone, the caller tune asks people to get vaccinated. But how do we do that when it is not available? Here at the dispensary also, vaccine wasn’t available for a few days in between,” says Baljeet Singh, a retired government employee and friend of Mr. Narayan.

About a km away from Bamnoli is the Dhoolsiras village, which has over 5,000 residents, but has no health centre providing vaccination or testing facility. “We have to go to Bamnoli for all COVID-related issues,” says Jai Singh (46), a villager.

Five km ahead, at the Bijwasan centre, mentioned by Bamnoli residents as their closest centre for vaccination of 18-45 age group, an official of South Delhi Municipal Corporation (Boys) School is idling in a room surveying the empty premises. “The school was shut on Tuesday and Wednesday as there is no vaccine available. Vaccination in the school started on May 10 and no one came after May 17,” he says.


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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 7:53:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/beyond-their-reach/article34629496.ece

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