Meghalaya Covid crisis: Claims vs Ground reality

Though Meghalaya is amongst the nine states in the country with the lowest active rates, the health care system of the state is not equipped enough to bear the burden even at this level

The recent statement made by the Director of Health Services, Dr Aman Warr, on the possibility of cases in Meghalaya to drop in the coming weeks, contradicts the ground reality of health resources as well as statements by the medical fraternity suggesting that the peak is yet to come for the state.

With the number of cases crossing the 400-mark every day since Monday, May 10, Meghalaya is undergoing a shortage of resources, including beds and oxygen. The shortage has been acknowledged by various government officials and until reinforcements are built, the situation is not likely to improve soon.

According to government data, the growth rate of cases (in the last 7 days) is about 1.5 per cent everyday. On Wednesday alone, 406 new cases were detected, taking the total number of active cases in the state to 3381.

Since Monday, the state registered 409 new cases while on Tuesday, it was 450. 

Though Meghalaya is amongst the nine states in the country with the lowest active rates, the health care system of the state is not equipped enough to bear the burden even at this level.

Government data also highlights that including 18 states and other union territories, Meghalaya has the lowest fatality rate. The state also ranks 9th in terms of recovery rate. 

As of Wednesday, the state reported 314 recoveries, taking the total tally to 17,354 and the number of deaths reported is eight, taking the total death toll to 250. 

The Northeast Today (TNT) spoke to Meghalaya’s Principal Health Secretary, Sampath Kumar, on the claim of cases dropping. 

“We can’t say this in an affirmative manner. Cases will reduce if everyone understands the strategy of containment. We all need to ensure and follow a strict containment strategy even at the family level. Give it another 14 days and we can then see a dip in the cases,” Kumar said.

A medical professional from Nazareth Hospital, Dr Synrang Batngen Warjri, said that the health care system in Shillong is at the brink of collapse. 

“Much of the beds, ICU, ventilators, oxygen, staff and doctors are now diverted to COVID care. Other patients, who require hospitalisation due to causes other than COVID, are suffering. There is a shortage of ventilators, beds and ICU for non-COVID patients as well,” he said. 

However, Kumar disagreed with the remark of the health care system being at the brink of collapse. 

“Health systems are being strengthened to meet the huge demand,” he said. 

Currently there are nine hospitals in the city designated for critical cases, known D-category cases. However, only a few have sufficient ventilator-attached beds. 

As of now, NEIGRIHMS has 22 such beds and Bethany Hospital has five. 

Shillong Civil Hospital, Woodland Hospital, Children Hospital and Military Hospital each have one ventilator-attached bed. Nazareth Hospital and Supercare Hospital have two each, while Dr. Robert Gordon Hospital has four. 

“I have patients under my care with heart failure who require ventilators. But because most ventilators are now used for COVID patients, we are unable to provide them with ventilators. They are otherwise COVID negative,” Nazareth’s Dr. Warjri said. 

He further added that if the number of positive cases increase further, then the situation looks grim, as with limited resources, hospitals can only admit serious patients, leaving many at the risk of deterioration at home. 

“If the rate of increase of the positive cases is greater than the ability of the health system to increase the number of beds – particularly ICU beds and ventilators – then the health system will be overwhelmed,” he said. 

To remarks made by Dr. Warjri on non-COVID patients being sidelined, Sampath Kumar admitted that this is bound to happen in the current situation and added that in many cases, elective surgeries are being postponed.

“We at Meghalaya have taken a review today (Wednesday) to emphasise the need for providing proper support for maternal and child health issues,” Kumar said. 

Keeping in focus the growing number of cases, in a press-briefing Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong also said that the situation in Meghalaya is under control currently, but highlighted that for the age group of 45 and above, the state was only able to vaccinate 37-38 per cent of individuals.

(Edited by Anirban Paul)

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