Odisha Health Minister Naba Kishore Das speaks to Aishwarya Mohanty on the state’s battle against Covid-19
Covid-19 testing has been ramped up and the daily case count is rising. What are the major challenges the state faces and how prepared are we?
So far, we have been in a position to control Covid and manage it well. I will not say that we have been fully successful, but we have controlled it. If you look at the fatality rate in Odisha, it is very low which reflects our success in managing the pandemic.
In many rural districts, there is a lack of ICUs as per the official Covid website. With cases on a rise even in rural districts, any plan of action for districts with lack of medical facilities?
We have already formed technical committees to deal with critical care in the state and they can say what to do and what not to. It is their area of expertise . If you see the management of Covid, only 10 per cent of patients need ICU in the state. Asymptomatic patients do not require anything. It is only the management of the doctors and the technical committee. So we have got a technical committee, sufficient numbers of beds, hospitals, drugs and we are able to control that.
The budget allocation for healthcare this year was increased by 14 per cent, but with the pandemic, how has the budget shaped up with respect to the transformative facilities the state had planned?
Fifty years ago, there were only three medical colleges in the state. After Naveen Patnaik became the Chief Minister, he decided to increase the budget for healthcare to provide more infrastructure. The pandemic has affected us, but, like yesterday we inaugurated an ICU and maternity hospital in Jagatsinghpur. We are planning and going stage by stage. The pandemic has definitely affected the budget, but we have 34 Covid-dedicated hospitals, more than 7,000 beds and for every district, we have a monitoring committee and for every panchayat, a quarantine centre. We have a micro strategy from the gram panchayat to the state level. All of the state machinery has been deployed meticulously and strategic implementation is carried out phase-wise.
There have been many instances of lack of maternal care facilities when ambulances could not reach villages and pregnant women suffered. How is the government planning to deal with such situations?
My department is already preparing a plan for more ambulances. We take immediate action whenever such an issue comes up and we hope that within a short time, we will be able to manage all these things.
After severing its alliance with the BJD in 2009, the BJP made inroads in the state in the 2019 elections. Time and again, top BJP leaders like Amit Shah have reiterated their aims to make Odisha their ‘garh’ (bastion). How does the BJD see this?
For the fifth time, the people of Odisha have shown their faith and love for honourable Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Now if we see any elections, by-elections, people vote for BJD because you see, Naveen Patnaik is a popular leader among the people, especially the poor, women, whatever he has promised, he has fulfilled. He is not a political leader but a people’s leader, a mass leader. So we do not fear anybody…anybody can come. But he knows what Odisha is and Odisha knows what Naveen Patnaik is.
There is a constant worry about the leadership in BJD as well which has been led by Naveen Patnaik as the sole leader. Do you see any other leaders as his successor?
Let’s pray to God….because if you want to develop Odisha, let Naveen Patnaik rule for another 15 years.