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IMA questions Assam coronavirus policy

Wary of ‘closed-door and whimsical’ steps
Health workers collect swab samples during a door-to-door campaign in Guwahati on Tuesday.

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 08.07.20, 02:43 AM

The Assam branch of the Indian Medical Association has frowned on the government’s planning and policies to check the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which has infected over 12,500 people in the state.

In a letter to health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday, the IMA’s state unit said it would be difficult for the government to control the situation without proper planning, given the surge of patients.

“Increasing hospital beds without manpower planning will be a futile exercise as we have very limited resources in terms of doctors and health workers,” the association said.

The letter, signed by IMA’s state unit president Satyajit Borah and secretary Hemanga Baishya, advocated that “experienced” healthcare professionals and groups be taken into confidence for proper planning rather than “closed-door and whimsical” decisions.

There are two immediate triggers for the letter. The first is the July 6 government order engaging health workers

and doctors for 11 days of continuous service in Covid wards and three days of institutional quarantine before re-engaging them for Covid duty, subject to testing negative for the virus.


The second is the government’s decision to switch over to antigen tests for health workers engaged for Covid duty.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has already mentioned that this test is less sensitive and a negative test does not rule out Covid. It requires confirmation of the negative status by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Strongly protesting the twin decisions, the IMA unit highlighted the ordeal of those working in Covid wards “continuously for 11 days wearing full PPE kits in this torrid summer, without air-conditioning in most centres”.

It contended that a large number of doctors and health workers have already fallen victim to Covid and “such unplanned and insensitive steps” will further endanger their lives.

The association urged the government to adhere to ICMR’s advice of managing and supervising asymptomatic Covid patients to get themselves treated at home.

Nearly 4,000 people have tested positive in the city, which is under a 14-day lockdown since June 29. Dima Hasao district, too, went for 14-day lockdown on Monday and areas under Jorhat Municipal Board will have a seven-day lockdown from July 9.

Senior health department officials said they would look into the issues raised by the IMA unit.

“SOPs keep changing and there is also dearth of frontline workers. It started with 14 days’ duty, 14-day quarantine because test results used to come after 10 days. Now results come after 15 minutes. We will look into the issues raised but we feel we are on the right track. Community testing has also started now,” one of them said.

A doctor said the rise in cases could be attributed to the return of migrants and those who were stranded once modes of transport started opening up.

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