The youngest districts of Gujarat that have been reporting high number of Covid-19 cases since July are struggling to keep up with its sparse infrastructure, having to depend on their parent districts for healthcare support.
To track the occasional significant surges or dips in the daily number of cases, The Indian Express took a four-day moving average of the daily growth rate of cases to compute the doubling rate in these districts of Morbi, Mahisagar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Botad, Chhota Udepur, Aravalli and Gir Somnath, which were declared on Independence Day seven years ago when Narendra Modi was Gujarat chief minister.
Based on the four-day average growth, the doubling growth rate was calculated, going by which the fastest spread of the infection is in Morbi. If the doubling rate continues, the cases will be nearly 550 in the next nine days.
State’s ceramic industry hub of Morbi added over 250 cases in July and is currently seeing a doubling rate of nine days, while Gir Somnath, which has added 300 cases in a month with its July-end tally at around 370, currently has a doubling rate of around 16 days. Morbi district collector JB Patel did not respond to calls.
For Mahisagar, which added nearly 270 cases in a month, the health infrastructure is at a vulnerable juncture. It has three dedicated Covid hospitals with a combined capacity of 200 beds of which 115 are equipped with oxygen facilities. Another 50 are expected to be equipped by the end of this week, according to district collector RB Barad.
The district can only support a patient in requirement of BiLevel-positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and not beyond. “Our district doesn’t have say specialists even among private practitioners. In such cases, patients have to be referred to Ahmedabad or Vadodara,” says Barad.
At present, 11 patients from Mahisagar are undergoing treatment at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. Of the 424 cases reported till date, 114 are active. For RTPCR testing also, the district has to rely upon its neighbouring district of Vadodara that reduced after antigen testing was introduced in July.
“From April till August 2, we have tested 9,795 samples, which is essentially one per cent of Mahisagar’s population. Of these, 1,500 were rapid antigen tests conducted in July, which is why we saw a rise in cases. Another 120-150 samples are collected and sent to Vadodara daily, whose results are conveyed in 24 hours. We also tested superspreaders and many who were tested were from other districts. Infection might have now spread (to Mahisagar) but I would say we are still better compared to some other districts,” says Barad. Balasinor and Lunawada have emerged as hotspots with several containment zones.
With the rise in cases in July, Mahisagar has stopped daily bulletins on its cases with details, including sample positivity of its high risk and low risk contacts of confirmed cases, age distribution of positive cases, date of sample taken and where the patients were admitted. Until July 11, when the last bulletin was put out, the district had recorded nine Covid-19 deaths while the state health bulletin continues to peg the district’s fatalities at two, as of August 2.
In Devbhoomi Dwarka, which started TrueNAT testing facility at its government civil hospital since the past week, there was a major rise in cases in July owing to the movement of people from other hotspot districts. From 20 cases in June-end, the district reported 90 cases by August 2, although the state bulletin pegs the district total at 64.
District collector NK Meena says, “Cases are bound to increase with movement of people… we are seeing people coming back after years in the hope that they are safer here.”
The district hived out from Jamnagar, Devbhoomi Dwarka has to rely on GG Hospital in its parent district. “While we have 150 beds in the government civil hospital and 50 beds in private tertiary system, we don’t have any full-time government physician. Hence we have to refer critical cases to the GG Government Hospital in Jamnagar. At present, we have six private physicians on duty and we have been told by the state government that they will send physicians on deputation from Ahmedabad. We have ventilators, but we need someone round-the-clock to operate them,” says Meena. The district on an average conducts 50 TrueNAT tests and another 100-odd antigen tests per day.
Botad, which reported around 150 cases in July taking the total cases to 233 by July 31, too, is seeing an issue with qualified medical personnel. District collector Vishal Gupta said while they’ve had periodic deputation of anaesthetists from Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad, its parent districts, for specialists they have tied up with Indian Medical Association from where one doctor comes daily.
“We have 200 beds there and 50 beds equipped with oxygen. In case of critical patients,although we have 20-25 ventilators, we refer them to Bhavnagar or Ahmedabad,” said Gupta.
“As the cases among Surat diamond workers rose, they moved (back) to the three districts of Botad, Amreli and Bhavnagar, which was one of the reason for the surge here (in Botad). There was also the re-opening of industries in this period,” Gupta added.
Chhota Udepur and Aravalli both added over 100 cases each in July taking the tally to 171 and 300 respectively by July 31.
Gir Somnath, which added 300 cases in July, had only about 70 cases until June-end. District collector Ajay Prakash and chief district health officer BL Acharya were not available for comments.
In Aravalli, which saw high fatalities in June, case growth rate has slowed down, with doubling rate at 85 days approximately at present. The district’s opposition leaders staged a protest before the collector’s office on July 9, seeking a government civil hospital.
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