Questioning Our Health Preparedness

by the editor: Siddharth Sehgal

Now that we have got some respite from the second wave, there are many uncomfortable questions that our government needs to answer so that we are better prepared for the third and subsequent waves but the government is more worried about its image rather than the healthcare infrastructure.

The first and very obvious question is that, when do we anticipate the third wave to hit us, and how much time we have? Though I don’t think we are completely out of the woods yet as far as the second wave is concerned because people are still dealing with post-Covid complications such as black fungus among others but now that many state governments are poised to unlock, there is genuine concern about the Covid preparations. We are not seeing any major activity in regards to oxygen plant setup or expansion of hospital capacities. The medical infrastructure is abysmally bad in rural areas and there is no visible effort to improve the capacity. The recovering population will have 3-4 months of natural immunity from Covid and if we do not organize any major public event such as exams or elections towards October or November, we may have few more months of breather. But the bottom line is that if we do not vaccinate a sufficient number of people and have ample stock of oxygen and drugs like Remdesivir we will see the April scenario repeat itself. We need strategic installation of oxygen plants all over the states to compensate for future demands.

If vaccination is not picking up pace in the rural areas, we need to divert those vaccines to people between the age group of 18-44 in cities where there is a lag in vaccine supply, rather than letting a vial go to waste, it’d be preferable to use it somewhere else. Government should not make Cowin app registration mandatory for vaccination as many people do not use smartphones and moreover, the app in question does not function correctly at times.

There is also a concern of medical bills that private hospitals are levying on patients. There should be a cap on the charges that is equitable to both the hospital and patients. There should be a process in place to timely address complaints and concerns of malpractice of some private hospitals. No one should go bankrupt in order to get necessary medical services. Improving and increasing the public hospital network and upgrading it in a matter of months is something too much to expect from our red-tape laced system but fixing costs is something that can be addressed rather quickly. Profits should not precede humanity in these trying times. Vaccines should be distributed equally so that they may not become out of reach for people from disenfranchised sections.

We live in times when questioning the government is considered treachery and treason, questioning a charlatan, self-proclaimed godman is called an attack on Ayurveda, and the activeness of social media is considered as governance. If we don’t wake up to the incompetence, mismanagement, and neglect all around us then we’d be again scrambling for oxygen and hospital beds in next wave.



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