Wake up from slumber, mitigate COVID challenges: IMA to Health Ministry

New Delhi: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Saturday slammed the Union Health Ministry, saying it is “astonished to see the extreme lethargy and inappropriate actions” from the department in combating the agonizing crisis caused by the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Noting that the collective consciousness, proactive cognizance, and requests made by the IMA and other professional learned colleagues are put into the “dustbin”, the association said the decisions are taken “without realizing the ground realities”.

In the last 20 days, an IMA statement said, the association has been insisting on the need for complete, well- planned pre-announced national lockdown rather than few states declaring lockdown ranging for 10 days to 15 days – so as to getting breathing time for the health care infrastructure to recoup and replenish both the material and manpower.

“Lockdown will break the chain of devastating spread,” said the IMA, a national voluntary organisation of Doctors of Modern Scientific System of Medicine in India.

However, it said, the Central government had refused to implement the lockdown resulting in mounting of new patients beyond four lakhs every day and the number of moderate to severe cases are increasing to nearly 40 per cent.

Mentioning that “sporadic night curfews have not done any good”, the IMA stressed: “Life is precious than the economy.”

“Wake up from slumber and respond to mitigate the growing challenges in covid pandemic,” the IMA said.

The equitable, accessible, and affordable vaccination for all above 18 years were demanded by the IMA based on scientific facts from April 6 onward and after persistent call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his innovative qualities assured the nation, the vaccination drive was started from May 1, it said.

“It is unfortunate, the ministry has failed to make the necessary required roadmap and ensure vaccine stock, resulting in the majority of the places where vaccination could not be rolled out for people above 18 years,” the IMA said.

“When the Prime minister notification is not implemented scrupulously, who is to be blamed?”

Considering differential Covid vaccine pricing system as “unhumanistic”, the IMA said the people of the age group between 18 and 45 years are forbidden to get the free vaccination from the central share of 50 per cent and they are placed under the mercy of the state governments.

“The jeopardy of private practitioners and states to negotiate with manufacturers for pricing and stock resulted in exorbitant price rise and vaccine shortage.”

Giving example of eradication of smallpox and polio in 1997 and 2014, the IMA said it could only happen by adopting the universal free vaccination and not by differential pricing system.

When Rs 35,000 crore were allotted in the budget, the IMA said, with which the maximum required 200 crore vaccine dozes are purchasable.

“Why the central government is shedding its responsibility?,” asked the IMA, adding “unless the government comes out and implements with willingness and steadfastness for equitable distribution, we will not be able the achieve the goal”.

Today for the last seven days, the IMA said, “no vaccine is available in small and medium private hospitals”.

“The crisis of oxygen is deepening every day and scores of people are succumbing to Oxygen mismatch supply and it is creating panic both among patients and fraternity. Though there is enough production, it is often the distribution which is not proper,” said the IMA.

Even after 15 days of the crisis, the IMA said: “The government is not seen at the forefront to solve these issues and resulting in people knocking at the doors of courts to get justice, resulting in judicial activism.

“Health care professional oganisations are neither consulted nor the honourable Health minister in this whole pandemic had time to interact with modern medicine professional organisations to solve this issue. Imported oxygen concentrators and oxygen plants are yet to reach the beneficiaries.”

The IMA later appealed saying, “as the time is running out with the impending crisis lest we deepen the crisis, solve it on a war footing”.

“Though various mutants are identified yet the real hazard is not explained in actual terms. Dedicated experts shall be designated to study this and propose mitigation measures at the earliest,” the IMA suggested.

The IMA also raised question over the government hiding actual Covid deaths. “Why are we trying to hide actual deaths? If the public comes to know about the actual deaths, their seriousness to adopt Covid-appropriate behaviours will rise.”

The IMA demanded to revamp the entire health care administration with Indian Medical Service (MS) cadets who are “well versed with the technical and administrative skill for effective execution of health care”.

“We also demand to establish a new integrated Ministry to serve in this pandemic with a dedicated, proactive, vibrant, innovative, and altruistic Minister and alleviate the fear of people by leading from the front.

“We propose for augmentation of infrastructure, materials, and manpower by enhancing health care budget to be raised from 1 per cent of GDP to minimum 8-10 per of GDP, and judiciously use the earmarked budget amount for ensuring equitable and affordable Universal vaccination.”