Kumar: Increasing manpower, better infra top priorities to tackle virus situation in Pune
Kumar took charge at a time when the city is battling an unprecedented pandemic that has affected 49,370 residentsUpdated: Jul 26, 2020 16:24 IST
On July 12, 2020, the Maharashtra government in a sudden shuffle replaced Shekhar Gaikwad as the Pune municipal commissioner and appointed Vikram Kumar as Pune’s civic chief.
Kumar took charge at a time when the city is battling an unprecedented pandemic that has affected 49,370 residents. Kumar spoke to HT’s Abhay Khairnar on the challenges that lay ahead, the uncertainty that comes with it and the combat plan by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
Q - Pune’s Covid-19 situation is getting critical; the Covid positive patients are not getting beds in private hospitals. How are you going to deal with this situation?
A- It is true that there has been a surge in the number of patients and there are complaints that patients are not getting hospital beds, however we are trying our best. My strategy is to tackle the ongoing pandemic at four levels. First, is to improve the infrastructure at private hospitals. Second, is to improve government and PMC hospitals’ infrastructure. Third, is to build a jumbo facility with 800 beds and fourth is to promote home isolation for asymptomatic patients. My efforts are to create more infrastructures considering future demand.
Q- Though it was expected that cases will increase and Pune will require more infrastructure, do you think that the government machinery was not prepared to handle it, whether the PMC’s planning has failed?
A- The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis. Not only Pune but many cities and also developed countries are struggling. Our efforts are ongoing to ensure that each patient gets proper treatment. The government and administration is working hard to improve the infrastructure, testing facilities. Even many NGOs and corporates are coming forward with a helping hand.
Q- The physical infrastructure can be created but what would be your action plan about the medical and para medical manpower?
A- Along with the infrastructure, we are working on escalating manpower. The doctors and paramedical staff are getting appointed. There is a demand to increase the stipend for intern doctors. We are trying to hire these intern doctors very soon. As testing has been improved, we are requiring more technicians. The PMC had also recruited more manpower for carrying out maximum tests.
Q- You spoke about the jumbo facility, an 800-bed hospital. Is it possible to get it ready in a short period?
A- The 800-bedded hospital will be ready in hardly 15 to 20 days after issuing work orders. The Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) is co-ordinating it. Once ready, the facility will offer a big relief, as all the 800 beds will be reserved for critical patients. The PMRDA has already floated an expression of interest and the contractor will be finalised after following due process.
Q- The centre and state government are taking efforts to unlock and start many activities? Will Pune city get more relaxations like public gardens, hotels in the future?
A- We have planned to take a review of the situation every week. The state government will also issue fresh guidelines. As per the state government’s new guidelines, we will be taking a call on opening public gardens, and allowing hotels and other businesses to be fully functional in the city.
Q- Due to the lockdown and Covid-19 crises, the civic body is not getting enough income. Do you think it would affect projects like the metro in future?
A- Despite the Covid-19 crises and financial worries, mega projects like metro will not be affected. Already, these projects are in the pipeline and have received necessary sanctions. Even the financial institutes are finalised. The Centre, state and the PMC has made budgetary provisions for it. In consideration that the metro project will be continued, projects that have not begun and are in the pipeline may be postponed.
Q- What is your long term plan for Pune as the municipal commissioner?
A - My long term plan and the first priority is to make the city Covid-19 free. This is a big challenge and we all need to overcome this crisis. Covid-19 has given us a lesson and, henceforth not only Pune but everywhere health would be a priority.