Bhubaneswar: COVID-19 had become a global pandemic in a short span of time. The visionary Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was quick to sense that strengthening health infrastructure in Odisha was the need of the hour and most powerful weapon in the war against the highly contagious foreign origin disease. There was an urgent need to take up proactive steps to strengthen the healthcare system in the context of COVID-19 and provide dedicated health services to the suspected and affected persons.
The conventional standard response to handling this Novel Coronavirus was inadequate. Even developed countries like Italy and USA having matured healthcare systems have found it difficult to respond to this unprecedented crisis. So, Naveen Patnaik focused on building a robust health infrastructure including dedicated Covid hospitals, Covid Cares Homes and Covid Care Centers especially for the patients infected with the virus in both rural and urban areas at the early stages of covid-19 pandemic in the State. He also created a robust and wide network of Temporary Medical Camps and Covid Care Homes in every Gram Panchayat of the State to provide a better healthcare in the rural areas.The State Government created a large number of units under a three-tier COVID-19 care system. These are Covid Care Centers (CCCs) Covid Heath Centers (CHSs) and Specialized Covid Hospitals.
First State in the Country to Set up Dedicated Covid Hospitals
As early as on March 26,Odisha became the first State in the country to set up the largest dedicated COVID-19 hospital in the country. It was also the first state in the country to set up such a large scale hospital exclusively to treat COVID-19 patients.
The State Government signed tripartite agreements with SUM and KIMS Medical Colleges at the Lokseva Bhawan to set up 1000 bedded state level hospitals in Bhubaneswar for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Within a week of signing the agreement, two hospitals of Government of Odisha exclusively meant for Covid-19 treatment having 625 beds capacity were operationalised in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack on April 2.
To boost the morale of the of health professionals, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik himself interacted with the doctors and paramedics many times.
Dedicated Covid Hospitals at District Level
In its bid to provide quality healthcare to the people in remote areas, the government took the important decision to set up dedicated Covid hospitals at the district levels as well. The Chief Minister assigned senior bureaucrats including Chief Secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy, Development Commissioner Suresh Mohapatra and CM’s Secretary of Transformation and Initiatives (5T) VK Pandian among others to oversee the development of heath infrastructure at the district and grassroots level. The senior officers visited all districts to manage the development of the health infrastructure in a short span.
Covid Care Homes
Changing its strategy, the Odisha government on June 17 2020 announced the setting up of COVID Care Homes (CCHs) in all the 6,798 Gram Panchayats of the State to fight the pandemic.
Each of the CCHs had the facilities for the stay of 10 to 20 persons. Patients with symptoms of cold, cough and fever were kept in these facilities instead of being taken straight to hospitals. Those testing positive for COVID-19 were shifted to dedicated Covid-19 hospitals.
In order to decentralise its COVID-19 management, the State government further announced the setting up of ward level committees in both urban and rural areas to monitor the situation and extend help to anyone testing positive.
The ward level COVID-19 management committees in rural areas comprised ward members, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANM) and ASHA workers, and members of local women’s self-help groups as its members, and village welfare committees managed the functioning. These committees were given special powers under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and were authorized to spend up to Rs10,000 each.
In urban areas, the ward committees were managed by ward officers, with local people and volunteers as members to monitor the situation. These committees were also set up CCHs in large slum clusters.
Covid Care Centres
The Odisha government on July 16 urged industrial houses and public sector undertakings to set up their own COVID Care Centres (CCCs) within a week for the treatment of their employees. The State Government gave them an assurance of technical guidance, training facilities and supply of critical medicines.
“Please come up with the CCCs within a week,” Industries Secretary Hemant Sharma said. The industrial houses were asked to set up the CCCs in their own facilities. Asymptomatic or mild-symptomatic coronavirus positive persons were taken care in CCCs.
Appreciating the decision of the government and the steps taken so far to fight COVID-19, the PSUs and private industrial houses including MCL, NALCO, OCL, Paradip Refinery, NTPC, RSP, IOCL, Tata Steel, JSW, Emami, Dalmia Cement, Hindalco, ACC Cement, Vedanta Ltd and JK Paper Ltd agreed to set up CCCs in their facilities for their employees and family members.
Temporary Medical Camps
Keeping in view the large scale influx of migrant labourers and others, the State Government set up temporary medical camps in every Gram Panchayat through various orders by the government (Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Department) on 16.3.2020, 20.03.2020 and 18.04. 2020. All the Gram Panchayats were advised to spend up to Rs.5.00 lakh for setting up of Temporary Medical Camps (TMCs) out of the available funds of 14th CFC and 4th SFC to prevent spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Till 22.04.2018, all the 6798 GPs had set up 7045 TMCs with a capacity of 2,22,963 beds to meet the demand of healthcare of rural people. Doctors and paramedical staffs were asked to visit these camps regularly.
Universal Free Treatment to All
In a landmark decision, even before a single case of Covid-19 was reported in the State, the Odisha Government on 30th March decided to bear all the expenses, including medical, food and stay of Coronavirus patients in the State.
“People should not worry about the expenses and instead stay strong and make efforts to keep the virus at bay.” said, Subrato Bagchi, chief spokesperson of the Government on Covid-19
Mobilization of Medical Professionals
The Odisha Government on April 5th decided to engage 1620 AYUSH doctors and paremedic staff to support its fight against the deadly Coronavirus.
The District Ayurveda Medical Officers (DAMO)/District Homoeopathic Medical Officers (DHMO) who have been working as wing officers, AYUSH under the administrative control of CDMOs & PHOs and the entire AMO/HMO workforce were assigned duties in healthcare institutions /quarantine centres or any appropriate place as decided by the CDMOs and PHOs in consultation with the District Collectors.AYUSH personnel were given the necessary training to contain the disease.
Advance Salary to Health Professionals
In yet another out of box step by the State Government, in order to boost the morale of the health personnel engaged in the fight against COVID-19 in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on March 25, announced four months advance salary for doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff.
In a video message, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced that the doctors, nurses and all health personnel across the state will receive their salaries for the months of April, May, June and July in the month of April.
Lauding the dedication of the health personnel, Patnaik said, “There is no comparison of your (doctors, nurses and other staff) selfless service to the people. I and the people of Odisha are with you and your families. I salute your spirit.”
He also appealed to the people to treat doctors and hospital staff with respect and affection “as they work day in and day out by sacrificing their comforts”.
“Don’t create hurdles for the doctors and hospital staff while they are working hard. We should all appreciate their dedicated service to the people.”
“Those do not behave properly with the doctors and other health personnel will be dealt with firmly. I have already directed police to take action against such persons,” Patnaik said.
Reservation of Beds in Private Hospitals/Nursing Homes
The Odisha Government on SAugust 29 made it mandatory for all private hospitals and nursing homes having minimum 30 beds, to reserve 10 percent of beds for coronavirus patients.
The notification of the government said that private hospitals and nursing homes will have to intimate the Collectors and District Magistrates of the district concerned and the state level authorised officer for data updating. They will have to appoint one Authorised Medical Officer who will coordinate with state authorities.
District Level Empowered Committee
In a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the grassroots level, on March 12th, the government decided to form District Level Empowered Committees under the chairmanship of Collectors to review the emerging situation and ensure effective and swift coordinated response of various field officers of the government for prevention, containment and mitigation of the diseases. The Committees were entrusted toreview the emerging situation on a daily basis. The committees were also empowered to take all necessary decisions for preventing, containing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within the district as per the guidance of State Level Empowered Committee.
Not just Humans… Animals too Cared
As the lockdown entered into its second week in Odisha and continued to keep people inside their homes, the stray animals were hit hard with this. Rising to the occasion, the Odisha Government on 31st March sanctioned Rs 54 lakhs to feed them in various cities and towns across the state.
“The state government has approved Rs 54 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to five municipal corporations and 48 municipalities for feeding the stray animals during the lockdown period, a letter of the housing and urban development department stated.
The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation was granted Rs 20,000 per day for feeding the animals, while the urban local bodies of Cuttack, Berhampur, Rourkela and Sambalpur were given Rs 10,000 daily for the purpose. Other municipalities were granted Rs 5,000 each.
Newsroom’s special series on ‘COVID Chronicles’ to be continued…