Dealing with COVID-19 and its after-effects has been a story of many challenges in Tamil Nadu even as the state, with its robust public health system, has been able to maintain one of the lowest death rates, state Health Minister C Vijayabaskar said.
In an interview with The Indian Express, the health minister, who has an MBBS degree, highlighted that the state’s fight against the coronavirus included 22 cancer patients, 15 dialysis patients, two liver failure patients and some HIV patients, who were among the COVID-19 cases that were successfully treated and discharged in the last few days.
Tamil Nadu recorded 11,224 COVID cases till Sunday, the largest number after Maharashtra. However, the state’s death rate of .67 is lower than that of Maharashtra, Gujarat and several larger states, Vijayabaskar pointed out.
When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s health services, Vijayabaskar, who has been holding the health portfolio since 2012 in late J Jayalalithaa’s cabinet, said it was an invisible enemy that struck health systems across the world. “Obviously, there was a decline in the number of outpatient and inpatient numbers during the lockdown. Still, we have been tracing and testing all Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) cases,” he said.
Even as the lockdown was extended and Tamil Nadu announced some more easing of norms, Vijayabaskar said the health sector has geared up to resume hospital operations.
“We are taking steps to resume all elective surgeries. Crucial services such as immunisation programmes or care for terminally ill cases were not affected by COVID-19. Still, we have decided to prioritise them along with the COVID-19 fight. We have prepared a micro plan for this, encouraging private sector hospitals and IMA’s fever clinics that were already working with us. Grassroot health teams were monitoring patients from all vulnerable sections throughout the lockdown,” he said, referring to village vigilance committees and ‘Friends of Police’ networks besides NGOs and associations for certain health conditions like diabetes.
As people travel across borders, Vijayabaskar said the major aspect may not be the number of cases but the casualty rate. “Our expert panel observed that Tamil Nadu’s lowest death rate, which stands at .67, is attributed to early diagnosis and early treatment. Lowest death rate and aggressive testing with maximum number of samples in the country are our major highlights. Our Chief Minister is monitoring all these measures on a daily basis,” he said.
Still, he agreed, there were many challenges, such as how to maintain normal life of society while also keeping active surveillance on the disease.
“Our surveillance system was active even before the first case was reported. Then we faced the first transmission of cases from Tablighi Jamaat cluster, we effectively contained that. Then we had Koyambedu market cluster, we are successful in tracing and testing them too. Latest, we got nine positive cases from seven flights from abroad. Some 1,076 people arrived from Delhi by train on Thursday, all of them will be tested and quarantined. Many more people will enter the state. Challenges are plenty, but we are capable and prepared to deal with this,” he said.
Vijayabaskar said 90% of the state’s COVID-19 cases were handled by the public sector. “But this wasn’t an exception here. About 70% of deliveries in Tamil Nadu are handled by government hospitals. Ninety per cent of our COVID patients preferred treatment in government hospitals for our effective protocols. We have daily protocol review meetings in all hospitals and experts revise them considering trends,” he said, asserting that the entire credit of Tamil Nadu’s health parameters goes to investments in the public sector.
When asked about reports that some state hospitals were overwhelmed by patients and that there was shortage of PCR test kits and PPEs, he said, “There is no overcrowding in hospitals. We are scaling up facilities with a continuous monitoring system. We have ordered more than 10 lakh PCR test kits, these consignments are reaching Chennai on a regular basis. Our supply mechanism is working effectively.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines