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Govt to focus on protecting healthcare staff from COVID

The Union health ministry has identified lowering of Covid-19 infection rates among healthcare workers as one of the key focus areas in high disease burden states for a more effective response to the pandemic, officials aware of the matter said. Many districts are reporting 7-12% infection positivity among healthcare workers in about 10 worst affected states compared to the national average of 5.5-6%, according to the ministry data.

“There are many reasons for higher positivity among healthcare workers in some of these states such as not following infection control practices properly, not donning or doffing the personal protective (PPE) gear properly, or not even disposing of PPE gear as per the prescribed norms. We have directed the states to identify the issues and address them properly,” said a health ministry official, who did not wish to be identified.

“In some districts, the issue being pointed out is that infection is being brought into hospitals from outside. A healthcare worker perhaps contracts the infection from where she resides, and for such cases, the states have been directed to identify those areas and strengthen containment measures in those areas to control the spread of infection.”

Officials said low lab utilization, lower testing per million compared to the state or national average, delay test results, and delayed referrals that put patient lives at risk are other areas that need focus in these high disease burden districts.

The official cited above said many of these districts have a relatively higher case fatality of elderly people and those with comorbidities. “Delayed referrals were leading to deaths within the first three days. Our ultimate aim is to bring down the number of deaths. The ministry is holding video conferences with states, and two in the series have already been conducted….”

Unlike the regular practice of engaging with top most people at the state level, the ministry has also involved heads of the affected districts (magistrates), and municipal commissioners in case of cities for Covid-19 management. “We are involving principals of medical colleges in these areas as they also play a crucial role in managing the situation on the ground,” said the official.

Officials said the states have also been asked to monitor asymptomatic cases under home isolation. They have also been asked to ensure timely assessment and advance preparedness for intensive care unit beds, oxygen supply based on the prevailing caseload, and estimates.

Some of the worst-affected districts the Centre is monitoring include Kamrup Metro (Assam), Patna (Bihar) Ranchi (Jharkhand), Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Ganjam (Odisha), Lucknow ( Uttar Pradesh), 24 Paraganas North, Hooghly, Howrah, Kolkata and Maldah (West Bengal). – Hindustan Times