Weaker On Prevention


Virus: Goa has performed better on curative side than on preventive side

TWO doctors and a nurse at the ESI Hospital at Margao, the designated COVID-19 care hospital, are among the latest to be infected by the coronavirus in the state. A doctor at the sub-district hospital at Ponda too has tested positive for the virus. The spread of COVID-19 continues unabated in the state. Medical and paramedical staff are the ones who are discharging the burden of treating and looking after the rising number of patients. If they start getting infected it becomes a matter of serious concern. The two doctors at the COVID-19 hospital might have contracted the virus in course of treating the patients admitted to the hospital, while the doctor at the Ponda hospital is reported to have got it from one of the patients at the out-patient department. It is puzzling to note how doctors at the ESI hospital who have been provided full personal protective equipment (PPE) could be infected by the virus. Was the PPE defective? Or was it that they did not take full care while handling patients? Whatever the reasons, there is a need for the government and the medical and paramedical staff to take corrective measures.

The government has to make every effort to keep the number of cases among medical and paramedical staff to a minimum, if not at zero level, for if there are fewer of them available for duty, the government’s fight against the virus would be weakened, exposing patients to grave risks. There are reports that doctors on COVID-19 care duty are overstressed due to long duty hours and lack of rest. Such overstress could lead to negligence in maintaining the protocol required in taking personal care and in treating patients. Having sworn to treat patients and serve humanity, the doctors and paramedical staff have preferred to discharge their duties without complaints or throwing tantrums that are seen so commonly and frustratingly among government employees in general. It would be better if the duties of the doctors and paramedical staff are rotated to help them rest. The more quickly the government takes measures to provide the medical and paramedical personnel rest and relief, the more effective the battle against the coronavirus would be.

If more medical and paramedical staff are needed, the government must find them without delay. With the number of COVID-19 patients increasing every day, the beds at the existing facility at Margao may not be enough to house all the patients. The government has to make alternative arrangements for more and more patients who might be in need of institutional care. Though the government had spoken about recruiting more doctors and paramedical staff on contract basis to deal with the rising number of coronavirus positive cases that has remained a mere announcement. As COVID-19 affected people need specialised treatment and care, only those with legitimate professional qualification and ability should be recruited through a fair competition and objective selection process. The government should also look into the shortage of ambulances and address the issue before the situation goes beyond control. There have been instances where patients found positive for coronavirus having been made to wait for long hours to be shifted to care centres.

Above all, the state government has to do serious rethinking on its COVID containment strategy, for it does not seem to be working in a very effective manner. If the number of cases is reduced, the pressure on the medical and paramedical staff would also be reduced. The government would not have to find more medical and paramedical staff. The state government has been performing better on the curative side than the preventive side.  If the prevention is effective, there will be less burden on the curative side. The government has to increase testing in containment zones, rather than waiting for more COVID cases to crop up in them and taking them to the care facility. If mass testing is quickly done, patients can be identified earlier than they are now being done in the containment zones. Patients who are identified later for lack of mass testing end up infecting members of their family and persons in the neighbourhood, which means a larger load on the care facility and medical and paramedical staff.