Is Telangana’s Health Infrastructure Prepared to Combat Covid’s Rising Second Wave?

As the COVID-19 cases are surging in multiple pockets across districts in Telangana, doctors and observers are raising concerns over the preparedness of the state government in tackling the second wave of coronavirus in the state. During the 24 hours period ending 8 PM on Sunday, the state reported 43 deaths due to the virus, the highest number of reported deaths since the pandemic, taking the toll to 2,042.

As on April 25 evening (latest official figures), the state reported 6,551 new COVID-19 positive cases, of which 1,418 cases were reported in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. While the cases are soaring across all the districts, four districts including Medchal Malkajgiri, Rangareddy, Sangareddy and Warangal Urban registered over 300 cases during the period.

According to the COVID-19 hospital beds’ status report by the Department of Health, as on Monday, there are 15,210 regular beds, 7,039 Oxygen beds and 3,439 ICU beds available across COVID-19 hospitals, both public and private, in the state. Despite the availability, many private hospitals are turning down patients in need of oxygen and ICU support, it has been reported.

“The state officials are underreporting the COVID-19 cases and deaths and at the same time, overstating the availability of hospital beds as patients are finding it difficult to get admission into hospitals,” said Bhupal, President of Telangana United Medical and Health Employees Union. Speaking to Newsclick on the preparedness of the state government to tackle the spread of the virus, he said that the state government still has not filled over 20,000 vacant paramedical posts in public health departments in the state.

The number of active COVID-19 cases has gone up from 27,861 on April 14 to over 63,000 on April 25.

Telugu Daily Eenadu on Monday reported that multiple ventilators procured during last year for COVID-19 treatment were lying unused in district hospitals as there are no proper technicians to handle them.

On April 24, 40 doctors from across hospitals in Telangana wrote letter to Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao raising concerns over underreporting of COVID-19 cases, low testing rate and the state of hospital preparedness in the state.

The doctors also suggested the government to invoke “emergency provisions and and full implementation of ‘disaster management act’ to combat a war-like rescue zone to provide all needed facilities such as N-95 masks, PPE kits, ventilators, medical oxygen, essential medications, by the manufacturers as a priority to provide for the needful.”

On April 23, Telangana High Court asked the state government to explain its “preparedness to administer vaccination to all persons above 18 years of age” from May 1, while expressing dissatisfaction over the government for not stepping up the percentage of RT-PCR tests despite the court’s suggestion in a previous hearing. The state government has also announced free vaccination for all above 18 years of age in the state.

As of Sunday evening, over 40 lakh COVID-19 vaccination doses (including first and second doses) have been administered in the state.

Last week, the state government imposed a night curfew in the state from 9 PM to 5 AM every day till April 30.

(This article was first published by Newsclick)

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