Monday, June 14, 2021

Coronavirus Cogitations: Perpetual preparedness

Monalisa Changkija

There are numerous issues that have been pushed to the back-burner due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, not only in Nagaland but across the globe. Right now, as you can see, it’s Coronavirus in the morning and Coronavirus in the night time ~ it’s Coronavirus 24X7. And, rightly so, because the threat of this virus is unprecedented and the cure is still elusive. Offhand I would say that some of the issues in Nagaland that have been pushed to the back-burner are backdoor appointments and other issues of corruption in various Government Departments and agencies, non-payment of salaries to some sections of employees, bad roads, unsatisfactory and unacceptable quality of education, etc., and of course, the Naga Political issue.

One of the major issues that we haven’t focused on with undivided attention is the quality of our healthcare delivery system in a long time. After the Coronavirus pandemic started, our state Government is assuring us that we needn’t worry, should the virus strike us. A few hospitals across the state have been declared COVID-19 hospitals, and some face masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), etc., have been allotted to these hospitals, we are informed. While across the globe the health and medical systems are overwhelmed and some even on the verge of collapse, it could be justified that we in India, in the Northeast and in Nagaland, are also in the same boat ~ after all, who imagined that such a pandemic would strike humankind. To a certain extent, yes, but one is talking about the general healthcare delivery system in Nagaland.

 Health and medical personnel, as well as the public, very well know the state and status of our hospitals and Primary Health Centres (PHCs). Even if we have some of the best doctors in the country, people seek consultations and treatment in our Government hospitals and PHCs more because of the absence of options than any other reasons. The very fact of our flourishing private hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, diagnostic centres, etc., speaks volumes, as much as the fact that a good number of Government doctors do private practice. Now, where have we gone wrong? We can hold forth on this endlessly but I think that the answer to this question lies in another question: where have all the Central funds allotted for our healthcare delivery gone? Or, where have all the Central funds allotted for our healthcare delivery been diverted and utilized? And these questions pertain to decades and decades of Central funding.

Consider that reportedly there is only one Blood Bank at Dimapur in Nagaland. Why not in all district headquarters at least? What about ICUs and the required equipment such as oxygen and ventilators, etc.? Do we have an acceptable number of them at least in all our district headquarters considering that the Coronavirus isn’t the only disease that requires treatment in the ICU for severe cases? What about human resource? Have all our available human resource to make the healthcare delivery system effective and efficient been recruited and sourced to all districts? Have our Government doctors/specialists been equipped with the necessary diagnostic and treatment machinery and medicines in their specific fields? Are our Government hospital labs fully manned and equipped? There are so many questions our Government needs to answer and this is the right time for the Government to answer with action. In fact, an honest detailed report by the Government on what we have and haven’t, at least in our district Government hospitals across the state, would be very reassuring to the public, besides there is the right to know aspect in our political system. Also, doctors in our district Government hospitals could list their requirements in the public domain ~ but they may not, lest the Government comes down heavily on them.

Yes, the country’s budgetary allotment towards the health sector is very small ~ about 1.28%. Small states like Nagaland will not get as much as the bigger states ~ even then, it’s a question of our state Government pursuing Central funds specifically for public health because there are other sources of funding than the budgetary allotments. More importantly, it’s a question of our state Government having the political will to spruce up our healthcare delivery system and spending Central allotment for public health judiciously, transparently and accountably. In fact, numerous Central funds are sufficient for a first-class healthcare delivery system in Nagaland if funds were not mismanaged and diverted to cuts, kickbacks and commissions ~ which, of course, holds true for every other Department and in almost all states in India ~ all well known public secrets. Therein lies the diseased tale of our healthcare delivery system.

If our state Government would search for and find its avowed commitment and integrity to uncompromisingly enhance our healthcare delivery system, it can ~ and it should, high time for that. If the Coronavirus strikes in Nagaland, all of us, including the Government, know that our healthcare delivery system would be weighted down almost to the nadir. But then, why only the Coronavirus? If our healthcare delivery system is robust, there is no reason for any epidemic/pandemic or any other health emergencies to weight it down. Preparedness is perpetual, not only on the eve of adversities striking. Preparedness only on the eve of striking adversities is damage control.

Now, the other day one of our local newspapers reported that the Dimapur Police is keeping a very sharp eye for ‘social media’ users posing as ‘media’ persons and breaking the lockdown regime. Arrey, you guys didn’t hear what the Prime Minister said and didn’t read the orders issued by our state Government before and also after the lockdown, or what? The Prime Minister and our state Government specifically mentioned the “print and electronic media”, not social media. Everyone today is into social media, even people in our villages, but not everyone is in the print and electronic media. Perhaps, some ‘social media” folks are trying to be smart? Not funny. What actually comes across is these guys’ ignorance and stupidity. But then, we know that everyone using social media isn’t smart, don’t we?

The print media especially has centuries of history, culture and traditions behind its existence and is acknowledged as the Fourth Estate in democracies ~ the other 3 Estates being the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Where does the social media fit into this? While the social media has its uses, if used wisely, it is basically a means of social networking on interactive digital platforms. The Fourth Estate, on the other hand, operates within constitutional boundaries, with constitutional roles and responsibilities. This means that the Fourth Estate also operates within the framework of self- and other regulatory mechanism. I suggest that those of you in social media breaking the lockdown regime to Google ‘Fourth Estate’ and educate yourselves at home quietly, without hassling our cops on duty, and without making yourselves, and others, vulnerable to the virus. Just stay home, Dude, and let the professionals do their job.

Some of these ‘social media’ folks are trying to equate themselves and posing as members of the Fourth Estate is much akin to quacks claiming to be doctors. And reports that some youth manning colonies/neighbourhoods here are asking these imposters whether they are from the media or social media reveals the level of ignorance amongst our youth, who are supposed to be as smart as their smartphones. Why should the question even be asked? Now, if these “social media’ guys have no compunction about posing as media personnel, would they have any compunction about violating privacy laws and other laws pertaining to issues of sensitive nature? Whatever some of you ‘social media’ folks posing as media personnel, do, at least ensure that you do not insult your own intelligence and expose yourselves to be the imbeciles and nincompoops you are ~ worse still invite litigation by the Fourth Estate, the Government or any member of the public.