LACK OF doctors and other trained medical personnel have put a brake on the Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad’s instructions to sugar mills to set up dedicated Covid care centres on the mill premises.
Concerned over the spread of Covid-19, former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had asked sugar mills to set up Covid care centres and beds with ventilators within their premises. Following this, the sugar commissioner also issued orders asking mills to set up at least 25 beds for Covid-19 patients within their premises. Three cooperative sugar mills — Vighanar in Junnar taluka of Pune district, Sahyadri in Karad taluka of Satara district, and Shree Datta Shetkari in Shirol taluka of Kolhapur district — have already started massive Covid care centres with more than 100 beds. However, the functioning of these centres is far from satisfactory as they don’t have trained doctors and medical staff.
“The state government was supposed to provide doctors and other staff but due to shortage of such staff, the centres are not functioning at their full capacity,” said an official.
Citing the example of these mills, other millers said while they were ready to provide the infrastructure, they did not have the means to provide trained staff to run the hospitals.
“There is acute shortage of doctors, nurses and even paramedics in urban and rural areas. So, how can the government expect us to run the centres?” asked a sugar miller from Osmanabad district.
By virtue of their location in rural areas, sugar mills normally play important roles in the fight against Covid-19. Thus, the idea behind asking mills to set up dedicated Covid care centres was to utilise the space and infrastructure available to address the spread of the virus in rural areas.
Dr Sadhana Tayade, state director of health, said each district had been directed to sanction their own Covid action plan. Collectors of each district have been authorised to appoint medical personnel.
“At our level, we are also sending bonded medical candidates to concerned circles where there is a requirement,” said Dr Tayade. She added that as part of efforts to get more doctors, they had also issued orders to 90 such medical personnel absent from duty.
State health officials said there were several instances where, over the years, medical officers appointed at health facilities in rural areas have not been on duty. “They have been chronically absent,” said Dr Tayade, adding that 90 such orders have been issued and 80 have joined.
District administrations have been asked to engage medical associations and encourage them to send their doctors to rural areas. “We have requested Indian Medical Association’s district-level branches to get connected with the district administration and help in Covid duty,” said Dr Tayade.
Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad told The Indian Express that he will revise his earlier order. “We will be asking sugar mills to tie up with local hospitals in the area. The new guidelines will be issued before the start of the October 15 crushing season,” he said.
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