When Goa was initially snared by the pandemic, we did extremely well. Unlike most of the nation, we found ourselves securely anchored in the Green Zone. We sputtered badly thereafter, with exponential increases in the number of cases and deaths, sowing despair and desperation among our citizenry. Apparently, there were too many people busy stirring the pot to draft a coherent and consistent policy. Protocols and procedures were revised faster than a chameleon could change its colours – and the spill-over of infection spread its tentacles rapidly and extensively. With our Chief Minister Pramod Sawant unfortunately side-lined by the virus, complete COVID control will be vested primarily in the Health Minister, Vishwajit Rane. Hopefully, palpable changes and visible transformations will result – improving and expanding, until we slay the demon in our midst.
Rane has already harnessed the bull by its horns, so to speak, assisted ably by a competent team of top medical professionals. All other interference will be curbed, along with the incessant and terrifying chant, that the 195+ deaths in Goa from the virus were due to co-morbidity. With one doctor cruelly commenting that “they would have died anyway”, the system conveniently absolved itself of complete culpability with the co-morbid excuse.
All over the world, people with co-morbid issues have survived, resurrected, and are back once again in the game of life. In Goa they had been condemned to certain death, to die alone and abandoned, cast aside in a hospital bed, sleeping on unchanged linen, forced to use filthy toilets, and eat inedible food which never came on time and which was flung at them as if they were the lepers of Biblical yore. In a state which encompasses the second largest proportion of senior citizens in the country, the elderly were distanced completely from advanced medical equipment, a doctor’s reassuring voice, a nurse’s soothing hand, or any emotional sustenance at all — to die painful and lonely deaths.
Which brings me to the importance of the need for a dynamic, yet caring, leadership. A leadership that we Goans should merit always.
According to most political pundits, a solid and effective leadership is defined by five specific characteristics:
Clarity: A true leader is one who possesses a clear-headed and concise vision at all times – there can be no question as to his goals and what needs to be accomplished. He must quickly develop a mastery of the issue before him, leaning on scientific and knowledgeable experts to help him augment his skills.
Decisiveness: Once he has listened to various arguments, he makes up his mind. He never falters after that, he does not hesitate to commit. It is all hands on deck, as orders filter through the ranks.
Courage: He has the audacity and daring to speak out, to outline his plan. To accept mistakes or criticism willingly, without offering lame justifications which any intelligent citizen can see through. He must be prepared to alter midstream if a policy outlined is not working out as it should.
Passion: For a ministry which keeps him involved 24/7, on the ball and on his toes. He barely sleeps, he responds day and night, he has his fingers constantly on the pulse of his people.
Unpretentiousness: He reacts to all cries of distress, not just of the wealthy and the VIP, but of every citizen. He is not averse to holding a sick hand, to offer words of consolation, to promise that he will do everything in his power to make amends for any damage done.
Our Health Minister embodies these concepts. Many Goans believe that he will transform a seemingly grim situation through his resolute methodology and approach. Rane’s principles in tackling the virus run thus: Co-morbidity cannot be used as an excuse for increased fatalities. We have to pull out all stops to save all our citizens from this viral tsunami. We will not permit the stigmatisation of recovered patients.
Doggedly and determinedly, he has ploughed ahead with several new diktats. He has placed four wards at the GMC, 122, 145, 146, 147, under the direct supervision of specialists and physicians. They are outfitted with high dependency equipment, including High Frequency Nasal Oxygenators and ventilators. Echocardiogram and X-ray machines, ultrasound and mobile dialysis units, biochemistry auto-analysis and haematology cell-count kits have been appended. The firm Sodexo, with vast international experience, has been contracted to deliver nutritious meals on time to all patients. And EcoClean will ensure hygiene and patient handling services.
Rane is in constant touch with medical professionals on the COVID issue. He has weekly Friday meetings with an expert committee comprising the top doctors of our state: doctors we should be proud of because they are on a diagnostic and effective par with any medical group anywhere in the world. He regularly reaches out to other medical institutions and specialists for advice and guidance, through webinar seminars and telephonically. The Minister recently engaged with the Yale Institute of Global Health to better understand contact-tracing practices and treatment methods. The Yale exchange also exposed him to CDC guidelines on discharge policy, and the new cutting-edge saliva test as an alternative to swab testing, which is both inexpensive and will cut turn-around time for sample testing to two hours. Leaving the state with an effective contact-tracing solution. Goa is already number one in the nation in the number of COVID-19 tests per million.
Pharmaceutical giants like Cipla and Glenmark have responded to his calls for donations, and when medicines are scarce, he has successfully assembled sources from outside the state to fly in the required medications, no matter the cost. He has made certain that remdesivir and tocilizumab are available for patients. He regularly inspects the COVID hospitals to make sure they are operating according to the newly-established norms. Plasma is being requested from donors through earnest appeals: the GMC Blood bank has started plasmapheresis with an apheresis machine under the direction of a top expert from AIIMS, New Delhi.
Rane has assured caregivers that the prophylactic hydroxychloroquine will be available for them and has ordered that their salaries be resolved in a more efficient manner. He has instructed that many more medical personnel should be hired and drafted into the fight against the virus. The super-speciality block next to GMC will open on September 30: it will bulwark all efforts to confront the pandemic squarely, front and centre.
The battle being waged against the monster virus is just too colossal to conceive. We must unite around an efficacious leadership. After all, our own health and survival are at stake.