Tuesday 03 Aug 2021

State shifts gear to tackle Covid mortality


In the futile quest to micromanage the optics of its failed strategic response to Covid-19, the Goa government has repeatedly watered down the efficacy of the State’s collective response to the pandemic. Be it the three month delay in launching the Covid monitoring kit for home isolating patients or the ‘half-in-half-out’ coverage under the Deen Dayal Swasthya Seva Yojana (DDSSY) for Covid treatment in private medical institutions, the state government’s myopic view through the permanently donned rose-coloured glasses has grown to haunt every Goan.


Back on July 22, when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic Covid-19 patients in Goa would be allowed to home isolate, the total confirmed cases detected in Goa stood at 4,027 from among the 1.1 lakh samples tested while the active cases were merely 1,552. 

Almost 2,500 patients had recovered and only 26 Covid-related deaths had been recorded. CM Sawant attributed the delay in affecting this decision to the criticism that was being piled on by the Opposition parties in the wake of horrific visuals that were emerging from government-run Covid Care Centers and Covid Hospitals. The questionable logic in this reasoning aside, back then this move placed Goa on the right track in handling the rising number of cases. Unfortunately, the government failed to back this decision with a clear strategy to manage the home isolating patients. 


By October 10, a total of 2.7 lakh samples have been tested and the total confirmed cases have risen to 37,934 and 473 more patients have succumbed to the infection taking the death toll from 26 to 499.

Till date, a total of 18,434 asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic Covid-19 patients have opted for home isolation, a number that would have otherwise burdened the already crumbling government-run Covid Care Centres. However, had it not been for the timely intervention by Indian Medical Association-Goa unit, this decision would have backfired instantaneously. 


During the initial three weeks, with no processes in place, the home isolating Covid-19 patients were in actuality left to fend for themselves. Government focussed its energies on the symptomatic and severe cases in the hope of arresting the rising number of Covid deaths. 

In doing so, the Health Department failed miserably in extending medical support to the home isolated patients. 

The IMA’s programme was highly organized and extremely effective in ensuring quick and complete recovery of home isolating patients. However, with the government making parallel albeit shabby efforts at managing these patients, IMA withdrew from the programme on September 30 citing “duplication of work”. A total of 6,770 patients benefited from the IMA’s services. But despite the availability of this prototype, the Health Department insists on carving out its own path out of the deep, dark woods at the cost of people’s lives. 


In recent months, the government has frequently altered its narrative around the mounting number of Covid deaths. Initially, the underlying co-morbid conditions were the culprits. Then came Ganesh Chaturthi and the people were blamed for flouting Covid safety protocols even as the government abdicated its responsibility of executing these strictly. Currently, the government continues to blame Goans but for a different and seemingly paradoxical reason. Covid patients are now being blamed for not visiting the hospital in time as well as for overcrowding the hospitals.


Even when faced with reports of re-infection among recovered Covid patients, the State government refused to study and execute the strategies employed by other States such as Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka. These States have not only adopted the home isolation policy from the very start but they have also fine tuned the connected processes thereby bolstering the medical system further. Home isolation kits were made available to patients in these States right from the start. 


Regular phone calls, a centralised public portal disclosing the location and availability of Covid beds in real time, home visits by health workers and quick replacement of equipment and medicines are just a few of the responsibilities that are being handled by municipal bodies in the metro cities with much higher concentration of Covid cases than in Goa. It appears that the Goa government’s stubborn refusal to emulate these best practices quickly will eventually spell its downfall. Goa is still struggling to deliver these facilities in a standardized manner. With the unveiling of its “home isolation monitoring kit”, Goa’s fight against Covid-19 is finally on Level Zero. 


At the event to mark the launch of the kit, Dean of Goa Medical College and Hospital Dr S M Bandekar said that it is a “ground-breaking” initiative. The statement would have indeed held true five months ago when Delhi launched the kit for its home isolating patients. But on October 9, it made a mockery of the last remaining shreds of Goa’s medical infrastructure. 

It may also be recalled that Health Minister made the formal announcement about the kit way back on September 11 while promising that the distribution would begin within a week. Even this delay of one month in providing crucial medical support to Goa’s Covid patients could not hold back the health minister and the CM from spending government money on a well publicized event at a five-star hotel and from using their own profile images to brand the kits. Naomi Klein was not completely off the mark when she theorized that power profits from disasters. The way this pandemic is being handled in Goa, it will not be long before we discover the extent of this profit-making the hard way. 

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