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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

‘Important to inoculate tribals, can’t afford high case load’

Nandurbar District Collector Rajendra Bharud speaks to Vallabh Ozarkar about the high CFR and the steps taken by the district administration to augment health infrastructure in anticipation of a third wave.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Mumbai |
May 24, 2021 1:45:55 am
Rajendra Bharud (Express)

Nandurbar’s CFR of 7.4% is the second highest in Maharashtra. Why such a high rate?

People in rural areas don’t come for testing. Even if they have symptoms, they take traditional home remedies. People are reaching only when they are critical and chances of survival are less. Another issue that we face is the limited number of doctors in government hospitals. We can’t start ICU in a remote tehsil like Dhadgaon and Akkalkuwa as there is not a single doctor in these areas. We have oxygen beds there but no ICU-level treatment. ICU treatment is only available in Nandurbar town. However, overall death rate is not high. If you compare with other districts, we are doing okay. We are not hiding any data.

Another issue is low vaccination. What are you doing to increase vaccination rate?

Vaccination is a challenge. We were at the bottom and managed to improve our ranking. There is a lot of mistrust and rumours about the vaccine in rural areas. We have made mobile teams who visit villages and set up vaccination centres after conducting an awareness campaign. It is important to immunise tribals. We can’t afford a high case load since we don’t have big hospitals nor adequate doctors.

We have started mobile swab collection drive wherein instead of people visiting centres, the 29 Covid swab testing vans go to villages and hold camps. Even if one person is found positive, we ensure that we collect all his close contacts’ swabs. We have also disallowed home isolation in these pockets. Many tribals are not in a position to monitor their Sp02 levels and there have been cases of families interacting with an infected person while in home isolation. We are sending them to Covid care centres.

Can you elaborate on the inadequacy of the healthcare system when the first wave hit the district?

Let me make it clear that as the District Collector my focus is on implementation of government healthcare programmes. Infrastructure augmentation is looked at by respective departments for which we release funds based on the demand made. When the outbreak began last year, every possible problem started cropping up and we realised that we did not have the desired health infrastructure. We had no private testing facility and we were dependent for oxygen on Surat or Dhule. We only had three dialysis machines and had to urgently purchase seven more. There was a shortage of ambulances as well and we have now augmented the strength to 42. We have also started our own RTPCR lab for the district with a capacity of 2,000 tests per day. Before that we had to rely on neighbouring districts for help in testing.

What is the oxygen situation in the district? Are you self-sufficient?

We can’t say we are self-sufficient in oxygen. It depends on the number of patients. At present we have 6 PSA oxygen generation plants, of which three are government owned, with capacity of generating 2200 litre oxygen per minute. We have the capacity to cater to 600 beds but tomorrow if there are 1200 patients who are in need of oxygen then we will need more. Earlier we had to depend on other districts for oxygen, but now we have set up our own plant.

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