Tamil Nadu has no plans to dismantle its infrastructure created for COVID-19 management during the second wave.
The rapid surge in COVID-19 cases in the second wave left several hospitals struggling with a shortage of beds. What made the situation more challenging was the sharp rise in the number of patients requiring oxygen. However, the Health Department managed to ramp up infrastructure quickly. It now plans to maintain the created infrastructure, keeping in mind past experience.
Minister for Medical and Family Welfare Ma. Subramanian earlier said the State government had created nearly 70,000 oxygen beds, and would keep them intact even after the second wave comes to an end.
“Considering the challenges of COVID-19, and the fact that it mutates frequently, it is only prudent to ensure that the created infrastructure is maintained, based on past experience. We should also remember that vaccination of optimum levels of people is bound to take some time, depending on the pace of supply. We will focus on creating permanent infrastructure rather than investing in temporary ones. For instance, we will ensure that non-oxygen beds in hospitals will be provided with oxygen points,” Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said.
In places where dismantlable temporary infrastructure was created, the facility will continue for at least six more months, if not a hindrance to the existing purpose of the space created, he said, adding: “We will take a call on infrastructure put in place in overlapping facilities such as college premises,” he said.
A senior government doctor in Chennai said the situation had turned chaotic because COVID-19 infrastructure was dismantled since they did not expect the sudden and sharp rise in cases during the second wave.
R. Jayanthi, Dean of the Government Omandurar Medical College Hospital, said infrastructure would be retained as a measure of abundant precaution and preparedness, while at the same time, non-COVID-19 work would slowly be resumed in a phased manner.
“This is because a lot of hard work and precious resources have been invested in creating the infrastructure in a short time. Given the predictions and suggestions regarding a third wave, it is wise not to dismantle the existing system. It will also be prudent to augment resources and training to meet a surge, if any, in the near or far future,” she said.
From 575 beds, of which 340 were oxygen-supported ones, the hospital ramped up infrastructure to 950, of which 910 were oxygen-supported beds.
“Along with the Greater Chennai Corporation, we had set up an ambulance triage centre with 100 beds, in a tent-like structure, on the grounds of the Bharathi Women’s College. This facility will be intact,” said P. Balaji, Dean of the Government Stanley Medical College Hospital. The hospital has created 100 exclusive beds with oxygen support and 25 ICU ones in its paediatric ward, M.A. Aravind, professor of paediatrics of the hospital, added.
E. Theranirajan, Dean of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, said it was important to keep the additional infrastructure intact. “We are in a lull. We also need to know the seroprevalence,” he said.
The hospital, since the start of the second wave, has increased its bed strength from 1,618 to 2,050. “We increased our oxygen-supported beds from 822 to 1,522. We put in place 538 oxygen concentrators. Now, all COVID-19 activities will remain on the first to fourth floors of tower-3,” he said.
COVID-19 infrastructure put in place in the primary health centre-level will also remain, T.S. Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health, said.