Coronavirus | In north Karnataka, poor access to medical facilities, fear of vaccination

Medical oxygen cylinders being transported in an autorikshaw in oxygen-starved Kalaburagi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: ARUN KULKARNI

Bandarwad gram panchayat in the Kalaburagi district in north Karantaka has so far reported 56 COVID-19 cases, all of them in the second wave. Four persons have succumbed to the virus so far. Apart from the deaths confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19, the village saw the deaths of 14 people above 60 years in the last two weeks in whom the coronavirus infection was not confirmed.

However, of the population of approximately 7,800 in the villages of Sirasagi, Teggelli, Huvanahalli and Bandarwad, only 226 people had been vaccinated on Wednesday.

The poor vaccination coverage in the villages is attributed to a lack of awareness and shortage of vaccines. “A man developed some complications after he received COVID-19 vaccination recently. He had to spend a lot of money to get treated at a private hospital in Kalaburagi. This has led to fear of vaccination and of potential expenses,” said Rajendra Sardar, an advocate from the village.

As on Wednesday, there was no stock of vaccines in the lone Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Bandarwad village. The PHC has a staff nurse and the doctor comes only occasionally from Gabbur, a neighbouring village. Most people travel to the district headquarters of Kalaburagi, 40 km away, for their medical needs.

The situation is not different in Chamrajnagar district in south Karnataka, which was in the limelight recently, with 24 people dying in a span of 24 hours, allegedly due to the lack of oxygen. Ironically, the district was considered a “green zone” till June 2020, with no cases reported from it.

The district had over 3,400 active cases as on Wednesday, most of them from rural areas, overwhelming the backward district’s fragile medical infrastructure. Of the 3,950 cases reported in April, 3,120 cases were from rural areas and the remaining 830 cases were from urban areas.

The rain-dependent district has a large population working in cities such as Bengaluru and Mysuru. It is estimated that a series of festival holidays followed by lockdowns had seen many return home from these cities.

In the hilly terrains of Chamarajnagar, villages like Doddanne, Padasalanatha, Pachadoddi and Indiganatha do not have all-weather roads, in the absence of which even ambulances cannot reach them. Patients have to walk or be carried to the nearest motorable roads, where the ambulance wait for them. Though forest roads have now been cleared, they tend to get blocked or clogged in the rainy season.

Dr. N.S. Prashanth of the Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru, who has worked extensively in Chamarajanagar, said there were issues related to testing, tracking and isolating patients in a village setting. Citing one example, he said there were no toilet facilities, leave alone a separate toilet for patients, as a result of which there could be community transmission.

The rural spread in the second wave is also corroborated by the State-level data. On Wednesday, Karnataka reported the highest single day spike of 50,112 cases, of which the Bengaluru Urban district contributed 46.10%. Bengaluru Urban used to contribute nearly 70% of the daily caseload till recently, every day.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:20:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/coronavirus-in-north-karnataka-poor-access-to-medical-facilities-fear-of-vaccination/article34499684.ece

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