Although the high-level emergency meeting on Manipur’s alarming Covid-19 situation held at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on October 22 resolved that local MLAs, civil bodies, and local clubs evolve a new standard operating procedure (SOP) along with launching of extensive awareness campaigns for strict maintenance of the SOP, the State Government still lacks a tangible policy strategy to fight COVID-19. A holistic approach is not evident and a policy for Non-Covid patients is still lacking and their fate uncertain.
The meeting held at the Durbar Hall of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat with the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren in the chair and attended by Cabinet Ministers, CSOs, Officials of IMA, Health Department, Red Cross Society, COVID-19 Consultative Committee, COVID-19 Task Force and MLAs deliberated on two common agendas and decided not to impose total lockdown for the time being.
Reports say that the Chief Minister assured that the government will put maximum effort to arrange more equipment and infrastructures that are needed in fighting the pandemic and to control the state’s alarming COVID-19 situation.
The Chief Minister sought suggestions and opinions from all the attendants on how to tackle the ever worsening COVID-19 situation in the state. He drew the attention of the local MLAs, civil bodies and local clubs to take the initiative for the people to maintain strict SOP at the locality level for a minimum of 14 days with immediate effect.
Now, it is confirmed from media reports of the meeting that the total lockdown would not be imposed in the state again, instead more stringent measures are to be enforced within containment zones throughout the state with new SOP, and also an increase in the number of beds for COVID-19 patients in hospitals is to be brought about.
Currently, the number of ICU beds reserved for COVID-19 patients at RIMS and JNIMS is only 32, and Shija Hospital has another six ICU beds, while the total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded is 132, and active cases of COVID-19 positives has reached 4,083 as of October 23. The total number of positive cases has reached 16,777 while 12,562 have recovered. Out of the total COVID-19 positive cases 11,568 are locals.
While there are 4,083 positive cases of COVID-19, the two major public hospitals of the state, RIMS and JNIMS, altogether have hardly 250 beds for COVID-19 patients.
Medical Superintendent of RIMS Dr. Ch Arunkumar told FPSJ Review that RIMS has only 116 beds officially for symptomatic COVID-19 patients. However, 118 patients are accommodated using the doctor’s duty room and nurses’ changing room. Out of the 116 beds, 10 are reserved for ante-natal, 5 are reserved for VIPs, and 10 are reserved for the staff of the RIMS. Of the 118 patients, 19 are on oxygen support and 9 are on ventilators, while the rest are mild and moderate patients. In all, 991 patients have so far been given treatment at RIMS, while 835 have been cured, and 38 died.
However, after the meeting held at Chief Minister’s Secretariat on October 22, the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren visited the RIMS on October 23 and discussed about adding another 100 beds for COVID-19 patients using the infrastructures of RIMS Dental College. The Chief Minister during the visit also discussed with the Director, Medical Superintendent and faculty members about increasing the number of beds and manpower, and also ways to fight COVID-19. The discussion was attended by Rajya Sabha MP, Leishemba Sanajaoba, Advisor to CM (Health), Dr Sapam Ranjan, principal secretary (Health), Vumlunmang Vualnam, director of RIMS, PA Santa and medical superintendent of RIMS, Ch Arunkumar along with doctors and nurses.
Dr. Brogen Akoijam, Academic Dean and Head of Department of Community Medicine of RIMS proposed in the discussion installation of a centralized cost-effective oxygen supply system, which takes only about 10 days for installation, for the COVID-19 patients who need oxygen support. Majority of the COVID-19 patients need high concentration of oxygen supply. The centralized oxygen system can deliver high concentration of oxygen at higher rate and the unused ventilators can also be integrated in the system, Dr. Brogen told the FPSJ Review.
The Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has asked for an increase in the number of beds for COVID-19 patients at the JNIMS also. However, the Teachers Association Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) has requested the director of JNIMS and concerned authorities to reconsider the opening of new COVID ward(s) at JNIMS without proper facilities for manpower and infrastructures.
The JNIMS Teachers Association convened a meeting on Thursday regarding the present developments at JNIMS and COVID-19 issues and submitted a letter to the JNIMS director, reports added.
Unfortunately, the number of doctors, nurses and health care workers who tested COVID-19 positive has reached 462, of which 153 are from JNIMS and 125 from RIMS, and the rest from other hospitals, including private hospitals as of October 22. The spread of COVID-19 amongst the doctors and health care givers has affected the morale of the doctors and healthcare workers, and subsequently the manpower also. But the Chief Minister has assured that the number of doctors to be recruited will be increased to 200 from 100, for which only 74 have responded to serve till date.
However, all these are focused on the COVID-19 patients. Though the Additional Director and Spokesman of the Health Department of Manipur Dr. Khoirom Sasheekumar Mangang, and Dr. James Elangbam, Secretary of Manipur Chapter of Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) mentioned about the need to provide treatment to the Non-Covid patients. The October 22 meeting did not come out with a concrete policy about the Non-Covid patients.
The Chief Minister asked officials of RIMS, JNIMS and Health Department to ensure that patients brought to hospitals for diagnosis and treatment are promptly attended to even if the patients are COVID-19 positive.
But the major public hospitals of the state, the RIMS and JNIMS, are not opened for the Non-Covid patients yet, even though there is no official order not to give treatment to the Non-Covid patients. Some major private hospitals provide healthcare services to the Non-Covid patients.
Most of the hospitals both public and private do not provide healthcare service to the Non-Covid patients, which has worsened public health in the state. This also ultimately results in increasing the number of COVID-19 deaths. It may be mentioned that Dr. Ch Arunkumar said that the majority of the COVID-19 deaths are comorbid patients who need treatment for their chronic illnesses.
Unfortunately, the public hospitals are reluctant to admit Non-Covid patients except for giving treatment to emergency and casualty cases.
Enough has been said and discussed in a number of reports and articles here about the failure of the lockdown and COVID-19 fight; and the need for providing healthcare and medical treatment to Non-Covid patients, which is key in preventing COVID-19 deaths.
However, the state government seems to be comfortable to respond to the pandemic from case to case, and issue to issue, without having a comprehensive policy strategy to fight the pandemic. A holistic approach to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is not evident. The State Government still lacks a concrete policy to provide healthcare and medical treatment to Non-Covid patients. And the fate of Non-Covid patients is still uncertain.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics