Train Covid helpers, volunteers in infant, postnatal care: Govt
The Union health ministry has asked states to train coronavirus disease “warriors” making house visits in antenatal, postnatal and newborn care as well so that they can screen and refer to health experts those in need of medical attention in Covid-19 containment and buffer zones.
“House-to-house visits conducted by healthworkers/Covid warriors for Covid purpose should be utilised to enquire about services required for pregnant women and linkages to the required service should be provided. Covid warriors may be trained in these services, if required,” reads the directive, a copy of which has been seen by HT.
A key focus areas is women who need abortion services. The surveillance workers will be trained to track and screen women, newborns and children for early signs of illnesses other than Covid-19.
“Unwanted pregnancies have negative impact on maternal and new born health. Regulating fertility is thus a necessity. There is need to enhance provision of safe abortion services besides post-partum and post-abortion contraception,” said the health ministry directive.
The ministry has asked for condoms to be treated as essential medicines, and said home delivery of the contraceptives should be allowed in containment zones.
Some of the other services outlined as essential are related to pregnancy care and management, newborn care and childhood illness management, immunization services, management of severe acute malnourishment (SAM) among children, family planning services, comprehensive abortion care services and adolescent health services.
“Critical services for women, children and adolescent should be provided irrespective of their Covid-19 status. Under no circumstances should there be a denial of essential services,” said the directive.
Most of the health services, except for those requiring mass gathering such as health camps, are allowed in the green zones. Days are fixed for services such as sterilisation, which is now provided to not more than 10 people a day for effective implementation of social-distancing norms.
The directive comes in the backdrop of concerns that non-Covid essential health care services could be neglected as the entire effort is concentrated on combating the coronavirus disease.
“The virus is here to stay so waiting for it to go doesn’t make sense. What we need is to adapt our strategies keeping in mind the social distancing and other preventive measures outlined by the government of India. It’s essential to start work now as, if you look at the data between March and April this year as compared to last year, there is a serious shortfall in providing non-Covid essential services, including in the maternal and child health sphere. It could lead to higher morbidity and mortality,” says Antaryami Dash, head of nutrition, Save the Children, a non-profit working in the areas of child care and nutrition.