(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
The strategic preparedness and response plan to respond to COVID-19 outbreak is poor and dismal. Mostly, it is focused on blame game politics over “Lockdown” and its “Lifting” decisions based on statistical data.
Ironically, for a country with a population of nearly 140 core populations, the current incidence of over 3 lakh cases is quite insignificant considering the ‘jam-packed’ slums and habitations. Also, flagrant violation of “Lockdown” measures including social distancing.
Thus, there should be no wonder if the incidence of cases spiral towards even 10 lakhs and more be end July 2020 or even earlier. And, they will mostly occur in mega cities, cities and towns.
Ipso facto, the focus of coverage of visual media channels is mostly non-availability of hospital facilities – beds, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, testing facilities, doctors, nurses and Para medical staff.
Of late, local administration in some places are attempting to appropriate schools as temporary hospitals knowing full well that they neither have “Rest Room” or “cooking” or “air conditioning” facilities so vital for managing a hospital to care for patients in dire distress.
Ironically, the visual media coverage of Delhi and Mumbai largely focuses over non-availability of beds in hospitals and unaffordable admission deposits and daily rates of corporate hospitals.
In retrospect, the current narratives mercilessly expose not only the intellectual bankruptcy of political and bureaucratic mechanisms but also the media houses to wage the war against COVID-19.
When the pandemic broke out in China in Wuhan, they created in 10 days two 1000-bed capacity hospitals to treat the COVID-19 patients amid a glare of national and international publicity to curb the virus. Also built 14 additional makeshift health centers to quarantine and treat the COVID-19 patients. All of them were closed down recently.
From the beginning of March, I had been highlighting the availability of AC Function Halls by the dozen in all mega cities, cities, towns and even rural areas and “Convention Centers” that even an active District Magistrate or Collector can requisition under emergency situation. Water, Toilet and Cooking facilities are available in all of them.
Some of the “Convention Centers” and “Function Halls” could be easily converted into 500-1000 bed “Make-shift Hospitals” with least costs (Aluminum Cubicles) in 10-14 days time frame with Beds provided in them. Also, ICU facilities as per need created in them.
For example, in Delhi the Pragmatic Maiden “Convention Center” has the entire necessary infrastructure available to be made into a “Make-shift” hospital. All that is needed is get clearance from Trade and Commerce Ministry of the Central Government even now to create a “make-Shift” hospital.
And, there are a dime a dozen “Convention Centers” in South Delhi alone that can be turned into “Make Shift” Hospitals.
My appeal to Modi and Kejriwal is simple. Stop “blame game” politics and start executing the plan to provide at least 10×1000 bedded “Make Shift” hospitals by end June. Also, equip them with beds and medical staff and vital infrastructure for Medicare of Covid-19 patients.
Similarly, Uddhav Thackeray, Mamata Banerjee and all other Chief Ministers must look inwards into the availability of “Convention and Function Halls” within their respective domains and create “500-1000 bedded Make-Shift” hospitals as per their requirements by end June.
And, all of them must direct their District Magistrates and Collectors to proactively and decisively act on the above score.
MPLAAD and MLA Funds reinforced by State and Central Government allocations must be utilized not only creating the above infrastructure but also running them.
Most importantly, finding Doctors, Nursing and Para Medical Staff for the “Make-Shift” hospitals and provision of medicines would also be a key factor.
Since the Central Government has invoked the “Emergency Provisions” ab into in March 2020, there is no use in indulging in shifting “blame game politics” if States are genuinely interested in effective implementation of responses to win the war against COVID_19.