By Sudhansu R Das
The COVID-19 pandemic has so far killed nearly four lakh people in India and infected 29089069 people. It has crushed people’s hope, left behind thousands of orphans and widows; it has erased the livelihood of millions of people and made large number of people hungry and homeless. The pandemic has hit hard the unorganized sector which contributes nearly half of India’s GDP. The virus has a crippling effect on agriculture, industry, banking, education, domestic trade, handicraft and service sector etc. The death of hundreds of doctors, nurses, health workers, journalists, scientists, skilled professionals and intellectuals has caused irreparable loss to the country’s HR capital.
Many skilled people like plumbers, carpenters, small shop owners, electricians, service providers, mechanics, security guards, health aides, house maids and salesmen who contribute to improve our comfort level have lost their lives. As per an analysis by the US-based Pew Research Center, the Indian middle class has shrunk by a record 32 million due to Covid-19 pandemic downturns. The report points out that the low-income tier, people with an income of $2 or less a day, rose by 75 million, which also accounts for 60% of the global increase in poverty. Hundreds of people in India have reportedly committed suicides after knowing they were affected by the virus. The Supreme Court in a 32 page order, expressed its displeasure over the center’s handling of the pandemic stating it was arbitrary and irrational. Virus experts predict a far more dangerous third wave in the near future.
India should prepare well to face the third wave so that it won’t destroy whatever is left after the first and second wave. First, the political parties instead of playing blame game over the Pandemic, should converge on one objective of saving people’s life and livelihood in the third wave. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “the Centre is taking back total control of vaccination now, and will be implemented in the next two weeks. The Centre will give free vaccines to states for all above 18. From 21 June, the Centre will provide free vaccines to states.” This is a desperate situation; which demands finer human qualities along with medicines, vaccines and health care.
Second, authentic documentation of the ground level facts and its acceptance always help any government prepare well for the pandemic. All hospitals should be kept in a core network for authentic data collection and better monitoring. It is the responsibility of the state government to inspire the private hospital owners to serve people with a human heart. As a long term plan, a Hospital Inspection Department should be established under the Ministry of Health; and the Ministry should come out with an Inspection Manual for the hospitals. A training college should be established to train people how to do inspection and audit of the hospitals. The Central Inspection Department under the Ministry of Health should decide the fate of the hospitals on recommendation of the inspection team. A comprehensive hospital law should be passed to improve governance in the hospital sector. But, all these things will look good if society can groom honest and efficient human beings for responsible posts.
Third, there is an urgent need to stop the incidents of leeching by private hospitals across the country; leeching patients by private hospitals came to light in many states. Recently the Telangana High Court on Thursday directed the state government to initiate action against those private hospitals allegedly charging excessively for COVID-19 patients in violation of guidelines and beyond the prescribed rates fixed by the government. Subsequently the state government issued show cause notices to 113 hospitals on the basis of 174 complaints from patients about excess hospital charges. Many COVID patients ended up paying an average Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakh for treatment. The state government has also banned 22 hospitals from treating COVID patients.
Fourth, this is high time to ensure the food and water available in the market are free from adulteration because pure and nutritious food at an affordable cost help the patients survive during virus infection. Every water body in the country should be geo- tagged and protected as water scarcity has aggravated the COVID crisis in the country. The Ministry of Health should create awareness about the nutritional value of Indian deshi food which is affordable and can be easily prepared at home.
Fifth, many medical colleges continue to offer seats to mediocre students for a hefty donation ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs one crore. Doctors deal with human life; the entry to the medical colleges should be purely on the basis of merit. There will be scarcity of good and efficient doctors in India after the present breed of senior and experienced doctors take an exit; the government should create inclusive opportunities in the field of medical education. Health sector is the foundation on which a strong and prosperous India can be built.