BENGALURU: Karnataka will be found wanting in case of an outbreak of communicable diseases like Novel Coronavirus (nCoV), with infrastructure and manpower shortage haunting the health system, according to experts.
“Urban congestion is so high and the way settlements have grown, epidemics, once they occur, spread at a galloping pace. We only wait for several people to die and the virus to lose its strength -- like in the case of H1N1 -- and then say that we are handling the situation well as the mortality rate has come down,” says Dr Rajani S N, epidemiologist at a private hospital in Mangaluru.
A recent Global Health Security Index-2019 report puts India in the 57th place out of 195 countries, with a score of 46.5 out of 100 in terms of preparedness for an epidemic outbreak.
Dr Vinay D, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals, says, “Preparedness means being planned. There have been several instances of Zika, Nipah, H1N1 and other zoonotic illnesses like rabies and dengue. When the outbreaks happen, the authorities usually react to the situation. Planning means ensuring outbreaks are immediately curtailed.”
Infrastructure provision should be multi-level care.
Awareness on possible outbreaks and precautions should be spread in advance. In case of an outbreak, a provision has to be made well in advance for clear-cut wards with dedicated staff, health experts explain.
Dr Vinay says the best way to stop a virus during an outbreak is to contain it. Hospitals across the state, including private ones, should do it.
However, several private hospitals have refused to set up isolation wards. Although 10 private hospitals including Manipal, Apollo and Fortis came forward, many said their staff were untrained in handling such cases.
Dr Prakash, the state nodal officer for 2019-nCOV, says private hospitals cannot be normally forced to set up isolation wards, but the government can enforce isolation wards under the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act in case of emergency.
There are stipulated isolation wards in government hospitals like Bengaluru’s Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases and the Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru to handle cases during an outbreak.
R Ravindra, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, fells though large private hospitals can set apart space for isolation wards, smaller hospitals would find it difficult.
Dr Satyanarayana, Head of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Manipal Hospitals, stresses the need to set up virology testing labs in Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Shivamogga, Hubbali and Mysuru.