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Mumbai: Doctor’s death puts focus back on plight of densely populated slum in Govandi

With a spurt in COVID-19 cases, especially among medical practitioners, at least 500-odd private clinics in M-east ward — comprising Govandi and Mankhurd — have shut shop.

Written by Laxman Singh | Mumbai |
April 25, 2020 2:00:35 am
Mumbai slum, Covid 19 cases, coronavirus deaths, private clinics, Govandi cases, Mumbai news, indian express news The number of COVID-19 cases in the area has crossed the 200-mark. (Representational)

The civic body is on its toes after a 37-year-old doctor from Govandi, who tested positive for novel coronavirus last week, died at Raheja Hospital Thursday. He was among the four medical professionals to have tested positive to the virus in the area, so far.

With a spurt in COVID-19 cases, especially among medical practitioners, at least 500-odd private clinics in M-east ward — comprising Govandi and Mankhurd — have shut shop, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said, making it further difficult to check the spread of the virus in the area where more than 70 per cent of the population resides in slums.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the area has crossed the 200-mark. On Thursday, an Inter-Ministerial Central Committee had even visited Govandi to evaluate the civic body’s preparation in the slum sprawl.

According to Govandi residents, the doctor, who used to run a clinic at Shivaji Nagar, had complained of breathlessness and diarrhoea on April 14. He was subsequently taken to Sion hospital for basic treatment. The hospital also collected his swab sample for coronavirus test. The report, which came on April 16, found him COVID-19 positive. Meanwhile, he had already been admitted to Raheja Hospital with a kidney ailment. His condition worsened on April 22 and he died early Thursday.

Dr Zahid Khan, general secretary of the United Medical Association, and a friend of the deceased said, “After coronavirus outbreak, many private clinics in the area had shut due to fear. Now, with the death of a doctor, there is panic among other private doctors practicing in the area.”

The three other doctors, who also run private clinics at Shivaji Nagar in Govandi, have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last 10 days. Of the three, family members of two doctors, too, have tested positive. “These doctors could have got the infection from patients whom they have treated at their clinic. The BMC is tracing their contacts so that further spread of the virus can be contained,” Khan, a general practitioner in the area, said. He added that there were about 500 private clinics in Govandi area.

According to BMC data, M-east ward reported 215 coronavirus cases till April 23. Of them, 17 people have been cured and discharged, so far. With a large population living in slum pockets of Baiganwadi, Kamala Raman Nagar, Rafiq Nagar, Maharashtra Nagar, and Lotus Colony, BMC officials say it is facing an uphill task to check the spread of the virus. Poor sanitation facility and high density of population — houses located too close to each other — only makes social distancing further difficult.

According to the Census 2011, Govandi has a population density of more than 36,000 per square kilometre, which is the fifth-highest in the city. However, chief executive officer of NGO Apnalaya, Dr Arun Kumar, said the density could have increased as in last nine years many more people have settled in Govandi. As per BMC data, till mid-2019, the M-east ward had a population of 8.32 lakh.

Rukhsana Siddiqui, the Samajwadi Party corporator from Govandi, also agreed that high density and smaller houses had made it difficult to keep people in their houses, even in containment zones. “At least five to 10 people are forced to live in the barely 10 ft x 10 ft houses. Since most of them were daily wagers, they are now dependent on the BMC for food and regularly step out to collect it,” she said.

Shamim Khan, a resident of Baiganwadi, meanwhile, claimed that lack of toilets was also a cause of concern. “In the last one year, BMC has demolished several toilets in the civic ward since they were dilapidated. However, reconstruction work is yet not completed. This has forced many to go for open defecation. The available toilets are overused due to shortage,” he said.

A structural audit of public toilets across the city in 2018 had revealed that 346 extremely dilapidated toilets, the maximum, were in the M-east ward.

A report, prepared by NGO Apnalaya, stated 145 people were using one toilet daily in Shivaji Nagar. This is much more than the Swachh Bharat Mission guidelines that state one toilet should not be used by more than 25 people daily.

To tackle this growing challenge in slum pockets, which is also home to a considerable number of TB patients, Dr Kumar said testing in slum areas had to increase. “We should have differentiated and made a granular strategy to look into slums. There were cases where patients had died within a day or two after admitted in hospitals. This means the testing was delayed. More testing of people will help in framing strategies for slums,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Ramesh Pawar, said the central committee, which had visited Thursday, had expressed satisfaction with the arrangement and precautions taken by BMC in Govandi. The committee had also visited Worli and Dharavi, both COVID-19 hotspots.

An official from the BMC said, “We have been continuously disinfecting the areas. Also, several fever clinics have been organised to check people for coronavirus.”

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