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Bihar losing to Covid-19 due to state govt ‘apathy’

NewsBihar losing to Covid-19 due to state govt ‘apathy’

A 3-member Central team sent to Bihar was ‘aghast’ at what it saw in the state.


New Delhi: The feedback received from a three-member team that was sent by the Central government to Bihar has given a very grim picture of the Covid-19 situation in the state. As per the feedback,the state government missed the opportunity to prepare and create the necessary infrastructure to tackle Covid-19 during the 25 March-30 May nationwide lockdown period.The three-member team was sent by the Centre in view of the massive spike of Covid-19 cases in the state.

The team that went to Bihar on 19 July included Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry; Sujeet Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control, and Dr Neeraj Nischal of Medicine Department, AIIMS (Delhi). The Sunday Guardian reached out to Singh and Nischal for their comments on the story, but they did not comment.

Highly-placed sources in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), who are aware of the findings of the three-member team, said that the members were “aghast” at what they saw in Patna, as they visited multiple hospitals, including bodies of Covid-19 patients lying unattended on beds and in corridors, with attendants of the patients moving in and around the Covid-19 wards without any restrictions.

“The attendants are being forced to do everything on their own as medical attendants, including the doctors, are not going near the Covid-19 patients as the whole system has broken down and the doctors fear that if they get infected, no one will take care of them. And this is the situation in the state capital, you can imagine what is happening in the rural and remote parts of Bihar. The medical infrastructure in the state is perhaps the worst in the country and none of the public representatives (minister and bureaucrats) who are responsible for managing the affairs is active because of which the whole system has crumbled,” a highly-placed source in the MoHFW, while quoting the feedback of the three-memberteam, told The Sunday Guardian.

As per Union government sources, the Bihar government is just not spending money on fighting Covid-19.

“They are not purchasing rapid antigen kits. The Central government recently gave 10,000such kits for free to the Bihar government, but they require at least 4 lakh such kits; the Central government cannot just keep focusing on Bihar as it has to take care of other states, too, and cannot spend all its resources on Bihar. The Nitish Kumar government is looking to the Central government for everything. The situation is worse in the rural areas,” a ministry official, who is presently in Patna, said. Last week in a press release by the state government, it was stated that the state government had already spent Rs 8,538 crore to “defeat” Covid-19.

In an affidavit filed in the Patna High Court on Friday, ICMR, on behalf of the Central government, said that the Bihar state government had so far sought 20,000 antigen kits from the Central government. “How can they do mass testing when they only have 20,000 kits for a population of 12 crore? This shows the lack of seriousness of the state government in handling Covid-19. They are neither purchasing the required number of kits, nor are they seeking the same from the Central government,” a Patna-based official familiar with the development said.

The three-member Central team had also visited Rajiv Nagar in western Patna and was surprised to see that the containment zone was made a no-go area by just using bamboo and sticks. At GB road in Gaya,120 km from Patna, one such containment zone was breached at several points, the team discovered.

“In such a difficult time, files related to appointment of 4,000 doctors and 6,000 nursing staff are shuttling between the minister and secretary of state health department for months,” an official Delhi-based source lamented while giving an example of the callous approach of the state government.

As per the latest data, seen by The Sunday Guardian, of the 464 ventilators that have been allotted by the Central government to Bihar, 364 have already been delivered. Also delivered are 29 lakh HCQ tablets, 4.54 PPE kits and 8.32 N95 masks. “However, most of them are lying unused as no one is using them because the kind of hyper-active approach that should have been there on the ground with regards to medical attendants, is not there,” the official added. The MoHFW is also imparting Covid-19 related training to doctors of Patna through video conferencing which has started this week.

As on 23 July, Bihar, with a population of more than 12 crore, only had 6,434 oxygen supported beds and 570 ICU beds in the entire state. In comparison, UP had 9,257 oxygen supported beds and 2,025 ICU beds, while the corresponding figure for Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh was 3,375 and 494 and 6,200 and 1,650 respectively.

The Central government, which recently received 4,475 oxygen concentrators from Temasek Foundation, Singapore, gave the maximum number of it, 500 pieces, to Bihar. The Central government also gave 10,000 oxygen cylinders to the state as the state governmentcould not even arrange that. “If they had not wasted the lockdown period, the situation would have been different,” the official said while adding that even contact tracking and tracing was very weak in the state.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, for every 10 lakh population, at least 140 Covid-19 tests should be done. Bihar, with a population of more than 12 crore, going by the WHO’s guidelines, should have been doing 17,500 tests per day. However, as on 23 July, Bihar was only doing 2,368 tests per day which is not even 20% of the required tests.

“Bihar has got the dubious distinction of doing the least number of tests (per 10 lakh) all across India. They have wasted the 70 days that they got during the lockdown in which they could have prepared for Covid-19. Health being a state subject, we can only advise and augment, the real work has to be done by the people in the state. The team members were shocked to see the callousness regarding Covid-19 in the people responsible for the health infrastructure in Bihar,” the source said.

The Sunday Guardian has also accessed multiple videos shot in “big” hospitals of Patna which show the utter mismanagement regarding Covid-19 in the state.

“The CM, the health minister and the deputy CM should have been visiting hospitals across the state as that would have given them a clear ground picture and forced the health authorities to start working, but surprisingly all the three of them have stayed inside their homes, thereby adding to the fear of Covid-19 among the common people. The doctors’ fraternity, too, is scared as they feel that if they too catch Covid-19, no system is there to take care of them. Private hospitals are not admitting patients due to the fear of Covid-19 and the people have no one to go,” a well-known doctor of Patna told The Sunday Guardian.

According to him, the state health department, after receiving instructions from the Central team, had notified 18 private hospitals in Patna for exclusive treatment of Covid-19 patients, but even after three days, these hospitals were refusing to admit such patients while claiming that the state government had not provided them infrastructure and PPE kits.

As per a Bihar-based senior BJP functionary, he had approached a senior minister of Bihar of his own party, seeking his intervention in getting a Covid-19 patient from his constituency a bed in the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), but the minister refused by saying that PMCH was full. “I then reached out to a Union minister in Delhi after which the patient was admitted in PMCH. I used to read and hear about the poor state of Covid-19 infrastructure in Bihar; only when I experienced it myself didI realise how true and painful it is,” the functionary said.

On Thursday morning, at Gardanibagh Sadar hospitals in the heart of the state capital, doctors were seen examining Covid-19 patients inside a Maruti van under the open sky as the hospital building was not sanitized even after the death of a Covid-19 patient. One of the doctors stationed at the hospital told The Sunday Guardian that they had informed the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) authorities about the death of the patients four hours ago and had requested sanitization of the building as per the protocols. However, despite the PMC office hardly being 50 meters from the hospital, no one had come, forcing the doctors to move out of the building.


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