COVID policy decisions number one priority as Stalin takes reins
With hospitals filling up fast, DMK regime needs to increase O2 production, number of beds
CHENNAI: When MK Stalin assumes office as Chief Minister, he will have to face a situation that no new CM has faced so far. As the Covid-19 pandemic is raging across Tamil Nadu, Stalin must take nuanced decisions on lockdown while balancing between the economy and the measures to control the spread of the virus.
With hospitals filling up fast, the first three tasks for the DMK regime would be to increase medical oxygen productions, increase hospital beds and staff. On the other hand, Stalin has made several promises, including Rs 4,000 cash per ration card, which will be a heavy burden on the exchequer. With the lockdown and its economic impact, the dip in tax revenue will also not help fill the coffers.
It remains to be seen how Stalin will strike the balance. Health experts say the priority must be on investment in public health sector to save lives. Dr S Perumal Pillai of the Federation of Government Doctors Associations in TN says the doctors are really overworked.”About 18,000 doctors are there, and it needs to be doubled,” he said.
He says if the government takes care of healthcare workers and delivers the benefits due to them, it will keep their spirits up. Infectious diseases specialist Dr Subramanian Swaminathan of Gleneagles Global Health City says that the priority is a lockdown. “Unless we impose a strict lockdown, we may end up losing more lives,” he said.
Dr Swaminathan said that the next government needs to put a lockdown not less than two weeks and has to assess the caseload after that and take a call to extend it or not. “Secondly, the State also needs a sub-committee to find out how much oxygen requirement is projected to go up,” he said, adding that protocols for using Tocilizumab are required just like States such as Telangana. The ultimate requirements come in ramping up beds and increasing the number of ambulances.
“Ambulance drivers are overburdened as number ambulances do not meet the requirement. They need to be doubled,” said Dr. K Kolandasamy, former Director of Public Health. “The government must procure ready-to-use ambulances with oxygen support instead of buying ordinary ambulances and then fitting with its facilities. This would save them time,” said Dr Kolandasamy.
He also pointed out that measures to decentralise Covid-19 call centres must take place. “Call centres must work from districts and not be centralised at Chennai. A communication delay can be avoided,” he said. Dr Kolandasamy also urged to increase oxygen production facilities in the State to meet demands. Meanwhile, Dr Swaminathan said that the State is beyond retention and now is in a mitigation State. “Our priority is to reduce the number of new infections. Rapid antigen testing could be incorporated so that we can triage more quickly,” he said.