The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), at 88.2 per cent, has the highest recovery rate when it comes to Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra. Civic body chief Dr Vipin Sharma speaks to Neeraj Tiwari about the challenges he faces.
How is TMC dealing with the pandemic?
We are focussing on the five Ts and one I — test, track, trace, treat, technology and isolation of patients. There were over 39,000 positive cases in our jurisdiction, of which around 35,000 patients have been discharged from hospitals while 1,038 have died. We are trying to save every life we can.
How many daily tests are being carried out by TMC currently?
We are testing more than 5,600 people every day as compared to around 1,500 between March and June. Since June, over 150 teams, comprising 3,500 healthcare staffers, have been on the ground. These teams include every one from a safai karmchari to a medical staffer. To increase the number of tests, we have deployed four teams at Thane station and one at Viviana Mall.
Four TMT (Thane Municipal Transport) buses also conduct tests while on the move. Till now, we have carried out around 3.6 lakh tests.
Did you face any anxious moment as the TMC commissioner?
We were worried during the Ganeshotsav festival, as there was a possibility of overcrowding, leading to a spike in the number of cases. Hence, we had the four TMT buses deployed at immersion points. At one side, people were bidding farewell to Lord Ganesh, while at the other side, our teams were conducting tests.
There have been complaints of overcharging by private hospitals and not discharging patients even after recovery. How is TMC dealing with this?
We have taken action against around 10 hospitals and till date, more than 5,000 hospital bills have been audited. Till October 7, hospitals have refunded Rs 2 crore to Covid-19 patients. The audit is still on.
To resolve the matter of patients not being discharged even after they have recovered, we have geo-tagged all patients. Four teams comprising nine members monitor the number of patients admitted, how many days they have been in the hospital and if they are on ventilator or ICU. With a single click, I can see who is in the hospital for how many days.
Besides, if any patient is staying more than 14 days in the hospital, our doctors’ team physically visit him or her. Also, we carry out surprise visits to private hospitals.
There was a perception that many from Thane were going to Mumbai for treatment. Does Thane need better medical infrastructure?
Earlier, the situation may have been dire, but now we have 4,429 Covid-19 beds, including for patients in ICU and on ventilators. Of these beds, 2,749 are still empty, including 35 beds with ventilators. In fact, 30 per cent of our patients are from outside Thane. Hence, no one from Thane has to go anywhere else for treatment.
Going forward, what other measures will be taken up tackle the pandemic?
A special post-Covid centre will be open in seven days for those who have recovered. TMC should be the first in the country to have such a centre. The aim is to clear doubts of people who had tested positive and recovered but feel weak and are afraid. The centre will provide them facilities like gym, yoga, diet charts and counselling. It will cater to the over 35,000 patients who have been discharged so far.
How much revenue loss is the TMC facing?
It will be difficult to give an exact figure but TMC has suffered losses in revenue — be it in premiums, leasing of land, advertising spots and property tax collection. On the other hand, the expenditure cost has increased due to the medical facilities introduced to fight Covid-19. The state government has directed us to reduce expenditure and hence, no new projects are being formulated. For example, TMC had identified six clusters in Thane for cluster redevelopment. These spots were approved by the government. However, due to the pandemic, the project has been put on hold.
The population of Thane has grown over the years and traffic has remained a perennial problem.
To solve traffic problems, we already have two Metro corridors coming up — Wadala-Thane-Kasarwadavali and Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan routes. Both are expected to be ready for public use by 2022. Also, there is a plan to build two Metro lines in Thane city for an internal network. Apart from Metro corridors, widening of roads and construction of flyovers is in progress.
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