M. A. Siraj
The pandemic has spread and tightened its tentacles over Karnataka. The State is registering 2,000 new cases of infection on an average everyday while the death toll has topped over 400 (as of July 6). The State which had fared well with a slot down below in the chart of Covid-19 infection tally of States during the last three month, has shown dangerous ascent, of late, with infection reaching over 25,000 (as of July 5). It is just behind Telangana and occupies the 7th position among the States on infection chart.
With complaints galore of patients being rejected by hospitals, the Health Department has warned that licenses of physicians would be cancelled in case of refusal to join duties. Most private hospitals report doctors and nurses staying away from duties. In a video that went viral like a wildfire, Dr. Taha Mateen, Director of HBS Hospital in Cantonment area of the city on Sunday made a passionate appeal to doctors, nurses and volunteers to enlist themselves at the hospital which has beds, ventilators and oxygen cylinders, but no doctors. He said doctors must realize their duties at this critical hour to serve the humanity and get away from the sessions on WhatsApp.
In order to tackle the paucity of doctors and other health workers, the Government of Karnataka is considering roping in medical and nursing students from 17 medical colleges and dozens of nursing schools located around Bengaluru. At a meeting convened by the Minister of Medical Education Dr. K. Sudhakar on Monday, the Government decided to appoint 2,000 students who will take post-graduation exam soon after they finish the exam. The exams are set to begin around the middle of this month. The Government is also looking into the possibility of deploying the final year MBBS students and those doing their residency in other areas of the State. A rough estimate reveals that the Government can access services of as many as 90,000 students from various institutions imparting education and training pertaining to healthcare, if the situation warrants.
Last week, Congress MLA Soumya Reddy while citing several instances, said even MLAs are unable to help people get beds in hospitals in the city. She said, “From a commoner to an MLA who can pull strings, people are scrambling for beds across Bengaluru.” Last week, Abdul Kareem (68) could not find a bed with a ventilator and died by the time he found a hospital willing to admit him. Reddy said a patient whom she recommended to be admitted in a far flung hospital was denied the bed when he reached there as it had by then been allocated to someone else.
Meanwhile reports have emerged pertaining to certain hospitals cheating the patients who had although tested negative but were declared positive. In another case, an ambulance driver left a breathless COVID-19 patient outside the Haj Bhavan, which is currently serving as special covid-care facility. The patient has been denied bed in several hospitals.
The Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) on the road leading to Tumkur has been turned into a Covid Care Centre. Around 10,000 beds have been readied in the sprawling centre which till recently hosted the migrant labourers who had arrived in the city to board Shramik Expresses. The BBMP (City’s Municipal Corporation) Commissioner announced that the Centre would be manned by 150 doctors. The BIEC in the outskirts of the city is a state-of-the art centre for exhibition of industries and has ample number of toilets, kitchens and other facilities. This morning the Muslim Orphanage management decided to hand over the dormitories and the school to authorities to be used as a covid care centre. The 125-year old Orphanage located in the heart of the Cantonment area, normally hosts around 500 inmates. But it has been lying vacant as all inmates were sent back to their homes and hometowns when the first alert of the city being on the pandemic map was sounded in March last.
M.A. Siraj is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru