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Jharkhand readies massive public health survey to map Covid cases, deaths

More than one lakh Sahiyas (ASHAs), Auxiliary Nurse Midwives and Community Health Officers will conduct this exercise between May 19 and 25, according to a Health Department letter seen by The Indian Express.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
Updated: May 17, 2021 7:10:02 am
A COVID-19 patient arrives at the Trauma Centre of Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi. (PTI)

Jharkhand is preparing to carry out a massive “Intensive Public Health Survey” covering all households in rural and urban areas to map the spread of Covid-19 cases and identify related deaths, which are estimated to be much higher than official records. More than one lakh Sahiyas (ASHAs), Auxiliary Nurse Midwives and Community Health Officers will conduct this exercise between May 19 and 25, according to a Health Department letter seen by The Indian Express.

This letter, issued to all Deputy Commissioners on May 14, said: “The public survey will be conducted to prevent the spread of infection in the community it is important that we identify the cases early, diagnose early and institute early preventive and treatment measures so as to reduce the spread and prevent serious morbidity and mortality…Priority needs to be given to 40-plus people as well as well as people with comorbid conditions…All people showing any symptoms cough, fever, body ache, taste will be tested with Rapid Antigen Testing.”

The letter added that the survey has been divided into seven days with specific tasks for each day. The surveyors will track pregnant women and also check-up children.

The May 14 letter said the first day of the IPHS week will be used to advertise the survey through various means.

“The survey will start on the second day till May 23. The Sahiyas (ASHA) will go to each household in their village for the survey…They will note down the names of 40 plus people…plus during the survey they will conduct Rapid Antigen Testing of each and every person who will show symptoms of Covid-19.”

Jharkhand has 4,402 panchayats with more than 35,000 villages across its 24 districts. “Around 1 lakh people will be engaged in the survey and related work. Each village has a Sahiya and Sevika whose job will be to conduct the survey in their village and additional help will also be provided if the need arises. The government has also ordered for an inter-departmental coordination for the survey as well as in conducting tests, making arrangements, running panchayat isolation centres, running block level call centers among others,” said a Health Department officer, requesting anonymity.

A May 15 letter by Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Arun Singh said: “…We are getting information about the infection and deaths in rural areas…For better management a Block Covid Task Force needs to be constituted which will include nine officials including Block Development Officers to Civil Surgeon.” The Health Department said this would mean integrating all frontline workers for the task.

In the urban areas, Urban Sahiyas will be asked to do the work where ever they have been appointed along with Mahila Arogya Samiti (MAS) members. MAS is a group of households in urban areas which oversees health and sanitation of their areas. Anganwadi workers and ward members will also be roped in on the survey.

The Indian Express has previously reported on the plight of villagers in parts of Jharkhand and on the lack of facilities to fight the pandemic. In many Panchayats, Mukhiyas have been raising red flags of several deaths going undercounted as well as people being initially diagnosed with Typhoid and later with Covid-19, which is delaying the treatment.

Flagging one of the reports, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das Saturday tweeted: “This is the ground reality in Jharkhand. The situation is getting out of control from Corona in cities and the villages. The Hemant government is proving to be unable to control the pandemic. People are paying the price of an insensitive government.”

A source in the government, however, said they have been working hard to control the situation.

This source, who is in the Health Department, said: “We will engage with as many people (as needed) for this exercise and this will help us to get a control of the situation. Another objective of the survey is to also get the count of the deceased in the state—whether Covid or Non-Covid, but at least we will be abreast with the situation. We will not hide the numbers.”

For instance, Dumka Deputy Commissioner Rajeshwari B Saturday issued orders on counting all deaths that have taken place between January and now.

Jharkhand has been hit hard by the pandemic. The state has around a 12% weekly positivity rate—which is decreasing—and an active caseload of 48,468.

Between March and May 14, it has seen a four-fold increase in Covid-19 deaths—from 1,113 to 4, 290—as per official records.

The survey order has called for early diagnosis, screening of the mobile and in-transit population, early treatment of cases, the establishment of isolation centres in Panchayats, and setting up of vaccination as well as treatment facilities in Community Health Centres.

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