Pune needs to avoid mistakes Mumbai made to get through Covid-19
Bhondwe: It is time for the administration to wake up from their slumber and look for better solutionsUpdated: Jul 06, 2020 16:41 IST
Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra has always matched every trend in Mumbai, be it business, fashion, culture, and also, the incidence of infectious diseases.
In 2009, Pune became the epicentre of the swine flu outbreak and it also reported the first case in Maharashtra on March 9, 2020, in the Covid-19 pandemic. At present, there are 21,520 cases in Pune.
The population of Pune is estimated to be 6.5 million while Mumbai’s population is exactly its double at 13 million. The total number of cases in Mumbai is 84,524 which is the highest not only in Maharashtra, but nationally too. If compared statistically, Pune city has 25 per cent cases as against Mumbai. However, the case fatality rate in Mumbai is 5.85% and that of Pune is 3.32% as of July 3.
All these figures show that though Pune claims the better numbers, it is closely following Mumbai. The civic administration of Pune has not yet realised the blunders committed in Mumbai and have been blindly following the trail.
Testing criteria: In Mumbai, testing rate at the ground level is low. Citizens who want to be tested are discouraged and sent back by government and municipal doctors, which is happening in Pune too. This has led to a delay in diagnosis and worsening of the patient’s condition, resulting in more serious patients and deaths.
· Patients referred by private practitioners to the BMC hospitals for Covid-19 tests are seldom tested. On the contrary, private doctors in Mumbai have been served legal notices for referring such patients. Many of them, turn out to be positive when tested at a private laboratory. Similar incidents are being noted in Pune as well.
· The reports of the patients undergoing RT-PCR tests are given neither to the patient nor to the referring doctor. It is in the possession of the medical officer of BMC. This procedure of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has caused a delay in admission and treatment of patients. In Pune too, a similar pattern has been observed.
· Private laboratories in Pune often deny testing those referred by private practitioners and they have also been instructed to send reports to the referring doctors and PMC and not to the patients.
· Contact tracing is very poor in Pune. Positive patients do not even submit names of their contacts and apart from family members, only a few others are traced. This trend proved to be detrimental in Mumbai.
· Testing of senior citizens and those having co-morbid conditions and living in containment zones has not been prioritised either in Mumbai or Pune. The case fatality rate of this group is around 80% as such people easily fall prey to the disease. The case fatality rate pattern in Mumbai and Pune clearly indicate it.
Hospital facilities: Sassoon General Hospital, being the only government hospital with ICU facilities in Pune, is always full even in the pre-Covid period. PMC has failed to construct a new general hospital with tertiary care facilities and trained doctors and staff. Sassoon’s demand for modern equipment has been ignored till now. The assurance of having a 500-bedded infectious diseases hospital after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 was never fulfilled.
Doctors on duty: The number of doctors in the public sector hospitals are insufficient and hence, many posts are vacant. Newspapers, doctors’ associations and social workers have been demanding appointment of doctors, but the government and PMC always turned a deaf ear to their demands. Now, new applications are being invited.
Treatment meted out to private doctors- Private practicing doctors were given notices to attend duties in Covid-19 wards. In Mumbai, Pune and across the state, private doctors or their associations like the IMA, were never consulted. Doctors have been threatened with legal consequences under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, Disaster Management Act, 2005 and MESMA.
To compensate the lack of hospital beds, the government acquired 80% beds of private hospitals and capped rates of various services. Government of Maharashtra alleged that private hospitals in Mumbai were overcharging and sending the patients away. The government has failed to resolve the problems of doctors. The same pattern is being followed in Pune.
Scarcity of facilities: Pune’s situation is becoming grim with every passing day. Private doctors do not know where to send their patient and patients have to visits numerous hospitals. The scenario is very similar to the tragic situation in Mumbai. IMA’s demand for developing an app for ambulances and bed availability has not been answered till now.
Eight of every ten patients prefer private doctors to government hospitals. So, the government should stop ignoring them and must take some advice from private doctors.
The residents of Pune are always satirised about their afternoon siesta even while doing business. It is time for the administration to wake up from their slumber and look for better solutions.
(Dr Avinash Bhondwe is the president of the IMA, Maharashtra state and is the UNESCO Chair For BIOETHICS)