Even as Ujjain has hit the headlines with one of the highest Covid mortality rates in the country, officials pointed to late reporting of cases, long-standing issues at the city’s only medical college, and delayed test results as reasons.
Ujjain has seen 45 Covid deaths, with 4,154 tests being conducted and 237 people testing positive. Mortality rate is close to 20 per cent.
The numbers have led Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to say that the area needs special attention. Special teams have visited Ujjain, and the district saw a change of administrative guard in the form of a new district collector this week.
Senior officials in Ujjain told The Indian Express that one of the biggest problems was the primary Covid care hospital. “R D Gardi Medical College in Ujjain had no expertise in handling Covid cases. A lot of time was wasted. Even now, there are issues between the management and resident doctors,” a senior official said.
The issues — including problems in donning and doffing areas — are being looked into, officials said. “We have created separate areas for men and women doctors. There was an issue of cleanliness, so some ward boys from outside have been stationed there,” an official said.
Much like the initial situation in neighbouring Indore, officials said, in Ujjain too there was a delayed response in reporting of cases, but with an added element of fear of the hospital. “Eight patients were brought dead. In 15 cases, people died between 24 and 48 hours of reaching the hospital. The negative image of the hospital is a big factor,” a senior official said. “In Indore, there was late reporting and deaths, but things were streamlined. In Ujjain, there was late reporting and deaths, and that exacerbated bad perceptions about the hospital.
An additional issue in Ujjain was delay in test results — which took as long as 12 days. An official said, “Therefore, positive patients were not recognised early, treatment was not started on time. There were chances of the patient wandering because of lack of isolation. His contacts perhaps didn’t get quarantined on time.”
Asked about these issues, District Collector Asheesh Singh, who until four days ago was the Indore Municipal Commissioner, said that all pending test results have now been received. “Three days ago, I directed that all pending samples (around 550) be sent to a lab in Ahmedabad. Those results came within 24 hours. Now we will not have pendency above 36 hours,” he said.
Regarding problems at RG Gardi hospital, Singh said the government was looking to enhance its capacity in the district. “There is a trauma centre with 100 beds, which will be ready in seven days. Aurobindo Hospital, with 100 beds, is also being facilitated. RD Gardi is a private medical college with 800 beds, 150 of which have oxygen facilities. If we have all of them functioning, it will be more comfortable,” Singh said.
Like Indore, 250 teams comprising ASHA and Anganwadi workers have been set up to do door-to-door screening, Singh said. “A mobile app is used to survey SARI and ILI symptoms, and if they show up, a doctor visits them.”
With some containment zones falling in Muslim localities, the administration has reached out to the community to increase trust.
Officials said it was very likely that Ujjain will see an extension of the lockdown, but there may be problems with enforcement. “People have been under a lockdown for a month and a half. To make it more stringent now is a problem because they are restless. After May 17, the lockdown is certain to continue, and things will have to change slowly,” a senior official said.
Asked if the mortality rate was a concern, Singh said, “The rate by itself is not important. Our focus has to be that no life is lost. We are monitoring at a micro level.”
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