CHENNAI: When the election results were declared on May 2, the subdued celebrations across the State belied the DMK’s anxious 10-year wait to return to power. Unlike other governments, this DMK government took charge knowing fully well of the biggest adversity that it would face and must resolve in this term. The one-month delay in declaring the poll results had already hampered the State’s efforts to quell the pandemic’s second wave. More waves are in the offing, experts say.
In the first week of May, ambulances began queuing outside hospitals with beds being scarce and patients were left gasping for precious oxygen. The situation has not changed much even now. So, lets have a look a what the new government has actually accomplished in just a matter of days after coming to power.
Even before taking oath as the Chief Minister, MK Stalin convened a meeting of officials to discuss Covid-19 mitigation efforts. With bringing experienced and honest officials to top posts, and ramping up the number of oxygen beds in all hospitals, the DMK-led government has seemingly started the battle on a war-footing.
Seasoned politician and former Chennai Mayor Ma Subramanian was made the Health Minister, the hot seat at the moment. Immediately, he began inspection of city hospitals and ordered an addition of 12,500 oxygen beds. The Chennai Trade Centre was also soon upgraded to an 800-bed oxygen facility. About 360 beds were opened to patients on May 11, without much fanfare, and presently about 70 patients are being treated at the centre, officials said. Another 500 beds will be introduced by May 25.
The plan is to shift severe patients recovering in tertiary hospitals to this facility and make more beds available in bigger hospitals. Speaking to Express, Health Minister Subramanian said, “We are enhancing the health services in suburban areas. In Avadi, we added 50 oxygen beds, and another 50 more at Velammal Surapet. A Siddha care centre too will be opened there.” Apart from this, orders were given to ramp up at least 250 oxygen beds at Stanley GH, while Chennai Corporation too began distribution of oxygen concentrators to government hospitals for the benefit of patients waiting for admission.
Gagandeep Singh Bedi, a senior bureaucrat who handled the 2004 Tsunami and 2015 Cuddalore floods relief efforts, was recently appointed the Chennai Corporation Commissioner. “The civic body will more strictly enforce the Covid treatment protocols. For symptomatic patients, we provide medicines during testing itself. We will also ramp up the vaccination drive and we aim to vaccinate one lakh people between May 15 and 18,” the corporation commissioner said.
So far, the corporation has received over 900 oxygen concentrators and it has handed over 90 per cent of them to government hospitals. “These concentrators will help patients who are in ambulances outside the hospitals waiting for beds to clear up. We have further given orders for 2,900 more oxygen concentrators. The Tondiarpet Communicable Diseases Hospital, Chennai Trade Centre and Injambakkam UPHC now have oxygen beds,” Bedi added.
Apart from these measures, the civic body, in a first, recruited over 135 MBBS students for Covid containment efforts and also doubled its zonal enforcement teams to implement the lockdown, which was announced as the last option to control the massive spread. On the vaccine front, the Chief Minister has decided to call for global tenders to procure 3.5 crore doses of vaccine, as the State was not receiving enough supply of vaccine doses from the Central government and manufactures in the country. This move was lauded by many and the DMK had earlier written to the Central government, urging for a free-vaccination-for-all policy.
To integrate requests for oxygen and beds, the State set up an exclusive Covid-19 war room to monitor all calls. This war-room, which connects all calls from 104 helpline numbers, strengthened the containment measures and helped to streamline requests from across the State, at a single spot. On May 14, CM Stalin made a surprise visit here and helped in allotting bed for a grieving patient. With the government taking up the challenge head-on, the test positivity rate (TPR) in Chennai dipped from 26.6 per cent on May 9 to 21.7 per cent on May 14. Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said that though the TPR is declining, people should not let their guard down.