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Cross connection between poll results and Covid spike could dent TN's fight against pandemic

The second wave of the pandemic has hit Tamil Nadu at the most inopportune moment when the State is waiting for the next government to take over.

Published: 25th April 2021 03:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th April 2021 05:15 AM   |  A+A-

EXPRESS I LLUSTRATION

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The second wave of the pandemic has hit Tamil Nadu at the most inopportune moment when the State is waiting for the next government to take over. Some doctors and experts are of the opinion that the one month transitional phase between polling and announcement of results, when there isn’t a full-fledged government in place, may impact how the State responds to the pandemic.

“The doctors have not received their special Covid pay for one month. Doctors who tested positive have not received the promised Rs 2 lakh compensation, and families of doctors who died of Covid have not received the promised Rs 50 lakh solatium during the same period,” says Dr S Perumal Pillai, president of the Legal Coordination Committee for Government Doctors.

This, he says, is likely to impact the morale of frontline workers. Not just that, as the State awaits a fresh government to take charge, government officials and doctors, at least a section of them, are alleged to be “taking things casually.” A former director of public health says that among the doctors, this is primarily because of exhaustion.

“Last year was difficult. Some doctors and officials want to relax a bit, till the next government takes charge,” says the former director.

Sources told Express that a few senior government doctors, who themselves recently came out of Covid duty, have left for their hometowns. The impact has also been felt on high-level policymaking.

“When it comes to crucial matters, there is likely to be some indecisiveness,” the former director said. Even tenders of big procurements could be put on hold, the official said. This might hurt the State bad at a time when all States are scampering for adequate supply of vaccines, oxygen, and drugs.

In fact, even the Health Minister recently said the government needed a “free hand” from the Election Commission to manage the current situation. He urged the poll panel to relax its norms to this effect. However, the fact is that the bureaucracy in general, and the Health Department in particular, have full powers to undertake any pandemic- related works.

The problem is with the power not being put to use, point out experts. “Although the TNMSC and Health Department are exempted from the election code of conduct, officials use only 20 to 30 per cent of their powers,” says the former Director. A senior doctor, with the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association, said that doctors would definitely have some hesitancy to carry out Covid duty as the majority of their demands remain unmet.

“Even if we get Covid, we have to recover and come back. We can’t miss this cycle. So, some doctors even hope the next government may double the doctors so that some doctors may go on leave for a while,” said a doctor, highlighting that the present mental health scenario of doctors may make them hope for friendly policies for them. Senior health department officials maintained that Covid containment measures were not hindered due to the absence of a full-fledged government.

“These two issues are not even linked and there is no problem with decision making. This is a common thing for many States and the bureaucracy is seasoned to handle this,” a top bureaucrat told Express, highlighting that interim budget funds were allotted and TN had strengthened the healthcare system in the past year.



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