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Red flags in Maharashtra: Malfunctioning ventilators, acute shortage of health workers

In a letter, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to state Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas about concerns raised by the central team.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
April 12, 2021 12:29:22 am
Maharashtra ventilators, Maharashtra health workers, Covid-19, Maharashtra Covid-19 cases, Maharashtra coronavirus cases, india news, indian expressPMC has received 30 more ventilators from PM Cares fund, as announced by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar during the Covid-19 review meeting of the district a few days ago. (Representational)

A central team of experts that visited Maharashtra, the state worst-affected by Covid-19, has raised several red flags after they found containment operations to be sub-optimal in Satara, Sangli and Aurangabad districts, with less than satisfactory perimeter control and lack of active surveillance for influenza-like cases.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has deployed 30 central teams to the 30 most-affected districts in the state to understand the spread of Covid-19, provide support and supervision and recommend workable solutions to curb the spread of the disease.

In a letter, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to state Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas about concerns raised by the central team. “Efforts at surveillance and contact tracing were found to be sub-optimal in Buldhana, Satara, Aurangabad and Nanded, mostly due to limited manpower engaged in this task,” Bhushan has said.

As on Sunday, there are 5,65,587 active cases of Covid-19 in the state. So far, to date, Maharashtra has reported 34,07,245 infections and a total of 57,987 deaths.

According to Bhushan, the central team said the testing capacity in Satara, Bhandara, Palghar, Amravati, Jalna and Latur districts was already overwhelmed, resulting in a delay in reporting test results. The central teams from Nanded and Buldhana have reported skewed RT-PCR/RAT ratio. Community resistance to Covid-19 testing has also been reported from Bhandara district.

Occupancy rates of available hospital bed capacity are high in Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Nandurbar. The team to Aurangabad reported the district’s dependency on neighbouring districts for management of critical patients and upgrade of critical care infrastructure. Medical oxygen supply was found to be an issue in Bhandara, Palghar, Osmanabad and Pune districts, as per observations by the central team.

The team from Bhandara has reported that most cases are being reported from outside containment zones. This requires increasing containment areas or notifying new zones, Bhushan has said in the letter.

He also said in Bhandara and Satara, a large percentage of Covid-19 patients were under home isolation, which required rigorous follow-up to minimise mortality. Such a follow-up was not happening at present. It was also observed that delayed reporting by patient to definitive treatment centres in Satara district was leading to a large number of deaths within the first two hours of hospital admission, he said.

Teams from Satara and Latur districts have reported malfunctioning ventilators. Hospital and district level oxygen planning must start without any delay, as per the guidance issued by the ministry.

Teams from Aurangabad, Nandurabar, Yavatmal, Satara, Palghar, Jalgaon and Jalna districts have reported acute shortage of healthcare workers. The work of making rosters for health workers and hiring them on a contract basis needed to be expedited. Data management in Satara and Ahmednagar districts is riddled with issues due to shortage of workers.

Almost all central teams found that adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour was lacking. This would require greater enforcement effort, Bhushan has said.

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