Managing The Pandemic: Smart Moves By BMC Propel The War Against Pandemic

Bhubaneswar: The sharp rise in the number of positive cases during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country put forth a challenge for the authorities at every level. The urban areas including the metros and capitals of various states witnessed tremendous caseload to manage. While different cities had different aspects to deal with, Bhubaneswar, one of the top ranking Smart Cities of the country had its own challenges too in managing the pandemic. Like many cities of the country, the capital city of Odisha also witnessed a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 infections during the second wave of the pandemic. But a well thought out strategy and an unwavering commitment with coordinated efforts by the Civic Authority Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, the situation remained much under control. A multi pronged approach focused on grassroots level execution of various strategies helped BMC contain the spread of Covid-19 infections. The lessons learnt during the first wave of the pandemic added with quick response strategy helped keeping the number of infections drastically low.   

Recharging Healthcare Infrastructure

Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, with its diverse patterns of population had its own set of challenges in managing the Covid-19 crisis. As a capital city, it had all the hustle and bustle and movement of a large number of people to and from other places. The city, a sizable population of which lives in slums, needed special strategy to fight the pandemic. From the beginning of the second wave in the month of March, BMC took proactive steps such as recharging health infrastructure, ramping up beds, making available advanced facilities for Oxygen, ICU and Ventilators. The number of available beds in the city was also increased phenomenally to about four thousand. Patients with mild or no symptoms who stayed in home isolation were also provided with the best care available. The peak of the pandemic in Bhubaneswar was reported during the second week of May when the number of infections rose more than 1300. BMC managed to provide hundred percent beds for the needy during these days. The peak occupancy during the May 10th and May 20th rose to about 80 percent in the various hospitals and today all these are history. The thirteen dedicated Covid Hospitals and Covid Care centers of Bhubaneswar now have occupancy of about less than 40 percent including that of ICUs and Ventilators.

With the second wave of the pandemic reporting a large number of patients requiring oxygen support, the Civic authority made it obligatory for itself to provide oxygen on demand to all. BMC was one of the few first civic authorities to mobilize oxygen concentrators for home isolation patients in the city. The dedicated call center played a crucial role in responding to the citizens requirements. Field health officials were the first responders for the positive patients staying in home isolation and provided medicines at door step. The zonal wise and word wise management of cases resulted in cent percent tracing of infections. The battalion of more than 70 Rapid Response Teams consisting of Doctors and Health Workers followed the home isolation cases and wherever required intervened with medical support. Speaking on the covid management strategy, Sanjay Kumar Singh, Commissioner, BMC, says that “we have a clear cut strategy in front of us to contain the spread of the virus and minimize the casualty. We have a robust system with comprehensive delineation of roles and responsibilities for the workforce at the zonal and ward levels. While we have achieved our goal of ensuring the best healthcare for all, in the coming days the number of infections will come down to double digits. The Test positivity rate which was more than 20 percent during the peak has come down to about ten percent and in the next ten days we hope that it will further decline to below five percent.”

Strict Enforcement of Social Distancing

Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation continued the decentralized approach for the various markets and specially the Haats in various areas. The biggest vegetable market of the city was shifted to a bigger place to maintain distancing during the relaxation period. The enforcement squads ensured that the markets maintained social distancing for their customers. Fines and seizures also helped it to keep under check the violators.

With the active help of the Commissionerate Police, the civic authorities could ensure that the four hour relaxation period during the morning remained appropriate. BMC formed five special squads for enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines in the State capital which visited the busy market places and ensured strict observance of safety protocols. Unlike the first wave of the pandemic, the BMCs approach this time was on micro planning and area specific restrictions. In addition to the lockdown, the BMC undertook regular and strict surveillance of vulnerable areas such as the slums along with cent percent contact tracing.

Vaccination Drive

As vaccination is key in the fight against the pandemic, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation took no time and started a full-fledged approach to vaccinate all its citizens. With its aim of universal vaccination, Bhubaneswar became one of the first few cities in the country that started vaccination for the 18 plus age category people. While all the Urban Public Healthcare Centers in its jurisdictions started giving the vaccine jabs, special arrangements were also made for reaching out to various categories of people. The drive-in vaccination sites opened in ten places of Bhubaneswar were a massive hit where the waiting period was minimal. The civic Body also made a practical strategy to reaching out to various categories of people through special vaccination drives. While the Frontline Covid Workers have been fully vaccinated in the city, other high-priority, at-risk population are being given the vaccines with special intervention. BMC has organised special vaccination camps for journalists, members of Swiggy and Zommato, taxi drivers, transgenders and small business vendors. The special vaccination camp organized by the BMC at OCAC tower for the members of the IT fraternity saw hundreds of professionals come forward. According to Manoj Kumar Mishra, IT Secretary, the special drive for the IT Professionals was a welcome step by the BMC as they have different and odd working hours than general public. Bringing vaccines to their doorstep also helped in minimizing the crowd at the healthcare centers. Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation also started special vaccination drive for students who were going abroad for studies by giving them the Covishield vaccine. The municipal body also arranged special vaccination camps in association with residential associations in various places of the city. Institutions such as IIT Bhubaneswar, OSAP, Colleges etc., also have got benefitted with special vaccine drives.

Till date the civic body has administered more than 11 lakh doses of Covaxin cumulatively to its citizens. While the 45 plus category population remains the priority for vaccination, the number of people who have taken both the doses has crossed four lakh mark. With the Government of Odisha going for rapid vaccination drive from the 21st of June, the BMC is also in a mission mode to vaccinate all its citizens.

1929 – A Friend In Need

The efforts of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation in managing the Covid pandemic would not have been complete without the toll free number 1929. The state of the art call center is working 24*7 in the service of the citizens. From contact tracing to answering health queries, the team at the 1929 have become an important part in the battle against Covid. While the call center has received more than one lakh calls from the citizens regarding various types of queries, it also helped the civic body to reach out to the people who have been infected with the virus. The 48 member call center has recorded more than one lakh ten thousand outbound calls. The call center has been actively tracing the Covid cases and helping patients with necessary information regarding shifting to hospitals, about medicines and also doorstep testing. The dedicated doctors at the Call center have till date responded to more than 30000 callers on health issues.

Some of the unique initiatives of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation such as reaching out to the senior citizens at their doorsteps for Covid testing and vaccination have received accolades. The Civic authority has also ensured that all the sections of the society are equitably responded. The BMC’s team efforts in identifying and developing specific strategies helped streamline citywide solutions. Its communication plans, program implementation plans, overall pandemic management using data analytics support has been exemplary.

Comments are closed.