It’s time to improve State’s tertiary health-care system

Govt. should complete work on all district-level medical college hospitals and align with private sector hospitals

A virus that surfaced in the Chinese town of Wuhan has brought the world to a grinding halt.

The COVID-19 outbreak has been at a different pace in different countries. While it has grown exponentially in Italy, Spain, the U.S., the U.K., and Iran, the rate of growth has been less in Singapore, Thailand, India, and other African countries. In India, the outbreak has not been that scary till now. The number of infected persons has gone up to 4,000 with the death toll just over 100.

India has adopted an early lockdown strategy which, among other factors, is believed to have arrested the exponential increase in cases.

In Kerala, much revered for its strong public health-care system, the number of reported cases has crossed 300 with a death toll of two as on April 5.

Most of the cases reported were people who came from affected countries. Others were mostly primary contacts. With the threat of community spread looming large, a few suggestions have been put forth with respect to improving the health-care system.

Time to scale up

The Kerala development model has been characterised by high human development indices. Health indices such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and others are on a par with developed countries.

Successive governments in Kerala, irrespective of their political affiliations, have contributed effectively towards creating an affordable and accessible health-care system in the State. However, the tertiary health-care system in the public sector needs to be augmented in Kerala. This gap has become evident during the present crisis.

Condemnable attitude

As of now, 10 people have died in Kasaragod after their ambulances were not allowed to enter Karnataka. The people in the district still depend on Karnataka for their tertiary health care. The attitude of the Karnataka government in these testing times is highly condemnable.

What the present government should immediately prioritise is to complete the work of all district-level medical college hospitals started by the previous United Democratic Front government.

Rather than overwhelming the public health-care system, the State should also align with private sector hospitals with the help of the Indian Medical Association to tackle any crisis that may emerge, in case of community transmission.

Worst-case scenario

The government should prepare for a worst-case scenario and should increase the availability of ICUs with ventilator facilities, PPE suits, N95 masks and other essential medicines. We should also inform, train and empower local bodies to respond to any emergency. The State should announce special incentives for its health workers, the police and revenue officials who risk their lives to protect ours.

In Kerala, the fishermen, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, the migrant labour population, and the elderly citizens are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

An outbreak among these populations will spell doom for the State. Hence, special attention and packages should be announced for these vulnerable communities and it must be ensured that the funds reach the needy.

The lockdown has accentuated the misery of the people. It has also impacted the food chain. The State should ease the restrictions on transportation of essential goods.

The Opposition in Kerala has played a creative role by providing full support to the efforts of the State government and suggesting proactive mechanisms to combat the deadly virus.

(The writer is Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly)

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 6:33:17 PM |

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