CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx

ARTICLE


Establishing COVID-19 Hospitals in Record Time


As the new coronavirus is highly contagious and spreads at an accelerating speed causing havoc around the globe, separate hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients are indispensable. Keeping in mind such requirements Naveen Patnaik, chief minister in the government of Odisha declared on 26th March that two standalone hospitals with all operational facilities capable of treating 800 corona patients would be set up in eight days, one each in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

The Odisha Mining Corporation has released funds from its accounts to finance these two hospitals. It was indeed a trendsetting announcement in the whole country. In the encircling fear and gloom spawned by the pandemic's frightening spread the announcement to set up two hospitals created hope and confidence among people that some state governments at least are determined to save them from this viral disaster.  

Such an announcement, coming at a time when there were hardly any COVID-19 positive patients and no deaths in Odisha, brought out the seriousness of the state government in grappling with the menace by adopting preventive and curative approaches.

 As China did during the worst of the outbreak in that country, building separate hospitals in record time to provide treatment facilities in an environment which would not spread infection and prevent human contact with patients who are victims of virus, the importance of establishing such separate hospitals has been underlined by experts and medical professionals in reputed medical journals.  

The article 'Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of CoViD-19' published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 23 expressed concern in the context of the United States, saying that "Even a conservative estimate shows that the health needs created by the coronavirus pandemic go well beyond the capacity of US hospitals." We have seen on television the grim situation prevailing in hospitals in most "developed" countries where patients do not find adequate space for isolation, care and treatment. Even doctors and health care personnel there have proven extremely vulnerable to getting infected or exhausted.  

In Odisha the two hospitals being readied in partnership with two private medical institutions demonstrate a forceful and focused campaign to crush the virus based on public-private partnership. The correct decision by the state government that patients admitted in these hospitals would get care free of cost including their food and stay brings out its humanitarian approach in dealing with this epochal threat. It is an example worthy of emulation by other states.  

These two hospitals in combination with the chief minister's first of its kind pronouncement on March 13 that COVID-19 is a disaster as per the National Disaster Management Act of 2005, and that rigorous disease distancing must be practised to defeat the menace make him a statesman capable of dealing with this peril. Such a positive step in this exceptional crisis generates positive feelings among people, that authorities enjoying the popular mandate are rising to the occasion to allay their fears and anxieties.  

It is reminiscent of the leadership of Utkal Gaurab Madhusudan Das who while speaking in the Central Legislative Assembly on 21 February 1923 on the cholera epidemic said, "The first thing that struck me was… to make the people feel that there is a Government which feels for them, which provides for their relief, which is anxious to see that they are cured, that they are protected against the spread of cholera."  

One is mindful also of the words of Mahatma Gandhi who when requested to inaugurate a hospital famously said that he would be happier if its founders would extend an invitation to him to put a lock on it, to declare its closure after the successful completion of its work.  

It is hoped that the two separate hospitals established by the Odisha government in record time of eight days and made operational with all facilities will one day become redundant. It is sincerely hoped that the non-pharmaceutical and preventive measures adopted by the government such as distancing, handwashing with soaps, discouraging the practice of spitting in public spaces, and shutting down almost all human activities will eventually liberate people from the potentially lethal infection.  

The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India the late Shri K.R. Narayanan    

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