Chandigarh admn is geared up for second Covid wave, says Badnore
UT administrator says situation is well under control as positivity rate has come down and active cases have also decreased substantiallyUpdated: Oct 30, 2020, 23:02 IST
After a sharp spike in coronavirus cases, the pandemic has considerably subsided in the past couple of weeks in Chandigarh. Hindustan Times talks to UT administrator VP Singh Badnore on how the administration has fared so far, and what are the challenges ahead, including fund crunch in the wake of the pandemic.
Q. What is your assessment of the current state of Covid-19 pandemic in Chandigarh?
A. The situation in Chandigarh is well under control as positivity rate has come down and active cases have also decreased substantially. The number of micro containment zones has also decreased. There is no positive patient at Covid care centres in Panjab University (Hostels 9, 10 and International Hostel) and their functioning has been temporarily suspended. All efforts are in place to prevent second surge during the festival season as testing has been stepped up.
Q. How is the administration gearing up for a second wave?
A. UT is already geared up for any second surge, if it happens, as adequate infrastructure has been created at PGIMER, GMCH-32, GMSH-16 and Dedicate Covid Hospital, Sector 48. As of today, there are 432 vacant Covid beds out of 550. There are 294 vacant oxygenated beds out of 390. There are 138 vacant ICU/HDU beds out of 160. There are 79 vacant ventilator beds available out of 95. Even during the peak on September 13, sufficient beds were available. In addition to this, Covid care centres were requisitioned. Sufficient medical and paramedical staff has been recruited and trained and are ready to tackle any second surge.
Q. Centre’s expert panel flagged some missteps in handling the pandemic in initial weeks, such as poor testing, high positivity rate and high mortality. What are the lessons learnt?
A. The Union health ministry did not find any missteps or lacunae in our handling of Covid. They gave some suggestions, which have been accepted.
Q. Administration could spend less than half of Covid funds allocated by the Centre, as per the Union health minister. Why did this happen?
A. Most of the PPE equipment, including gowns, face shields and N-95 masks, were provided by the Centre for free. Chandigarh already had adequate health infrastructure and there was no sudden expenditure on infrastructure and healthcare workers in the three premier health facilities. Initially, only RT-PCR tests were being done, for which the Centre provided free kits. In the past couple of months, rapid antigen testing has started, for which kits have been procured from Covid funds. Out of ₹ 10.43 crore, ₹ 6.77 crore (65%) have been spent to date. Further purchase of diagnostics, drugs, equipment and manpower is in process.
Q. Lack of coordination between UT, Punjab and Haryana again came to the fore, with the three often adopting different strategies for lockdowns, resulting in confusion. What steps should be taken to have a better institutionalised system for coordination?
A. The three administrations were following health ministry and ICMR guidelines issued from time to time and were in constant touch with each other. Regular war room meetings of the UT administration were also attended by deputy commissioners and civil surgeons of Mohali and Panchkula. A common pattern of lockdown and curfews was followed for the tricity after due deliberations.
Q. The PGIMER and UT administration differed on a number of issues. The PGIMER kept on suggesting targeted testing and was reluctant on allowing patients from outside. Did this impact Covid management?
A. At all times, PGIMER, GMCH-32, health department and Chandigarh administration were on the same page, as daily war room meetings were held. All decisions were taken after detailed discussions. Central guidelines for testing and treatment protocols were followed at all times, and there was no adverse impact on Covid management.
Q. Since the onset of pandemic, some of the UT’s big ticket projects, such as shooting range, GMCH-32 and GMSH-16 upgrade, and Tribune flyover, are in limbo. How do you plan to bring them back on track even as the Centre has put restrictions on spending?
A. Fifteen-acre land has been earmarked in Sarangpur for the proposed GMSH-16 medical college, and the detailed project report has been submitted to the Centre. The Tribune flyover is being funded by the ministry of road transport and highways, but the matter is pending in the high court. For the shooting range, the ground work for issuance of NOC by the forest department has been started.
Q. MC’s revenue has also dried up and ongoing works such as road repairs have been affected. How does the administration plan to help?
A. The MC is constantly making efforts to increase its revenue at its own level from advertisements and increase in certain user charges. The administration has made no cut in grant-in-aid approved in the budget estimates despite the cut on spending by the Centre. The administration has also approved collection of cow cess and corona cess on sale of liquor. Additional grant-in-aid is being sought in the revised budget estimates, and would be released if approved by the Centre.