One of the biggest lessons to learn from the pandemic raging in India is to create a robust healthcare system. Bold healthcare reforms have to be introduced as cosmetic changes will not help. There has to be a sustained campaign to deliver healthcare to rural India, says DR. KAFEEL KHAN.
With 50 million cases and 1.3 million deaths to date, COVID-19 is creating havoc worldwide. Even though the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR ) serosurvey indicates that 7% population (62 million) may have been exposed by August 2020 to the Coronavirus, positive corona cases count approximately 8.5 million with mortality of 0.13 million as of November 5, 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed India’s fragile public health system which was already overstretched and overburdened on the verge of collapse.
Healthcare in India has been in deep shambles and needs deep introspection.
Lessons from the pandemic
1. COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which is a respiratory pathogen.
2. Coronavirus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets or aerosols even though some suggest that air pollution particles could help coronavirus travel further in the air.
Air pollution, Winter and Influenza infections are a cocktail that could exacerbate the severity and spread of coronavirus in the coming months.
3.Symptoms range from mild like fever, dry cough, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, sore throat, headache, muscle or joint pain, skin rash, vomiting, diarrhea to severe symptoms like shortness of breath, confusion and rare neurological complications such as strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage.
4. Something like COVID-19 was expected, but we were not prepared though we had gone through the challenges caused by the Ebola virus.
5. Science is under attack by rumors, unscientific views and infodemics which are hard to fight. Scientists are working hard to solve the many mysteries of the current virus ravaging the world.
6. Development of new technologies, even during a global crisis, does not automatically mean access.
7. Pandemics exploit social pre-existing inequities and worsen them.
8. Supply of Oxygen, PPE kits, ICU equipment, medicines, sanitizers are scarce.
9. Air pollution, Winter and Influenza infections are a cocktail that could exacerbate the severity and spread of coronavirus in the coming months.
Pandemics exploit social pre-existing inequities and worsen them.
10. The pandemic has destroyed the economy, increasing unemployment and hunger.
11. There is a mental crisis looming in India due to the pandemic.
12. International aid is under threat. Global solidarity is painfully missing.
13. Pandemics require multiple interventions to control.
14. There will be lags in the reporting of deaths, as well as issues around attributing the causes of death. Everyday 500-1000 people die of Covid-19 and around 28,000 die because of non-Covid diseases.
15. One way to suppress the epidemic is to ensure social distancing, wearing of the mask and ensuring hand hygiene by washing as often as possible with soap.
16. RT-PCR is the Gold Standard, RAT offer results more quickly but is less accurate.
17. Both isolation and quarantine are methods of preventing the spread of the disease
Healthcare reforms need thorough introspection, debates and corrective measures. Mere cosmetic changes won’t help.
18. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics will not work.
19. Many potential vaccines for COVID-19 are being studied. It might take longer than expected.
20. Scientists around the world are working to find and develop treatments for COVID-19 but have to yet meet with success.
Urgent Action Required
We can’t afford to be silent spectators. When India is struggling with the dual burden of the corona pandemic and an economic slowdown, there is a dire need to address medical negligence and apathy, poor quality of healthcare services, lack of hospitals, lack of equipments, shortage of doctors and nurses, low hospital bed density, doctor-to-patient ratios and privatisation of health care.
You don’t need a Corona epidemic for the public health system to collapse.
It’s time to make a fresh beginning for healthcare in India.
Healthcare reforms need thorough introspection, debates and corrective measures. Mere cosmetic changes won’t help. We need immediate actions, bold reforms and a sustained campaign to deliver healthcare to rural India.
The article was originally published in The Leaflet.
(Dr. Kafeel Khan, is an assistant professor at the Department of Paediatrics, BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Views are personal.)