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Expectations from 2021

It is of utmost importance for every citizen of India, to remember the supreme sacrifice of a significant number of Healthcare professionals who have laid down their lives in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

They died for us
The COVID -19 pandemic is certain to leave behind indelible imprints on the sands of time, having affected all walks of life and citizens of almost all nations of the world.

With appropriate and timely guidance from organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Indian Council of Medical Research, and the Government of India invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act 1857 and appropriately amending it, coupled with a series of restraining actions (lockdown), was able to fairly bring the pandemic under control.

This effort is being appropriately supplemented by the COVID-19 vaccination program, inaugurated on January 15, 2021 by the Honorable Prime Minister and is being systematically rolled out to the citizens of our country in a phased manner. It is requested that the private healthcare sector with its vast presence across the country should also be utilized to the fullest extent possible in order to ensure maximum coverage of the population of our country almost simultaneously, so that herd immunity to COVID-19 can be established in our country effectively.

However, a closer look at the events across the globe and in fact within many parts of our own country, it is evident that presumption of return to normalcy would lead to a situation of complacency and may even be an invitation to the return to difficult times as was seen during the early part of the pandemic.

An analysis of the unfolding events would reveal that the effects of the pandemic, are there to be with us for a fairly considerable period of time, may be for a year or so before we can declare return to normalcy, as during the pre-pandemic period.

Therefore the medical facilities across the country both small and big in rural as well as in urban areas which have admirably risen to the occasion of combating the pandemic will have to maintain the same degree of vigilance and state of preparedness in terms of quality and affordability, almost through the year 2021 as well, in order to conquer the pandemic.

The other side of the pandemic is that it has been a period of learning both in terms of academic understanding of the disease and its management as a result of which we are in a much better position to handle crisis. The learnings during the pandemic should be systematically documented, vetted, and training modules should be appropriately created for use by the health care workers across the country as and when needed.

However, we also noticed that there was heavy dependency on imports, relating to gadgets being used in the ICU such as ventilators, though there are many Indian companies including defense labs which have produced ventilators. Therefore there is an urgent need to promote Indian products under the Atmanirbhar scheme and this should also include items such as mask, gloves, PPE, drugs, and all other items connected with the pandemic and otherwise being used in the hospital.

With the focus of the government being appropriately directed toward healthcare, the time is most opportune for strengthening the medical facilities both in the government and private.

Incentives should be provided for setting up facilities in difficult areas and the government should also ensure providing infrastructure facilities such as roads, water supply, uninterrupted power supply etc.

With India being the IT hub of the world we should be able to link the medical facilities across the country on a real time basis so that the available beds can be efficiently managed. Another very important factor that needs to be kept in mind especially consequent to the pandemic is that the extra infrastructure requirements needed to maintain the highest standards of sanitization of men and material tilted the delicate balance of cost of healthcare toward the more expensive side, which has to be efficiently addressed by the government by way of taking upon the responsibility of providing incentive and promoting make in India products which are being used in the hospitals.

In conclusion the government and private healthcare players have to effectively join hands, complement each other and work in cohesion so that the public health aspects and the patient management aspects are tuned to the highest degree of efficiency in order to ensure complete return to normalcy by the turn of the year 2021.
The article is co-authored by Dr V C Shanmuganandan, Advisor, AHPI

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