Kerala’s COVID care dominates Governor’s address

No new announcements made in policy address

Kerala’s efficient containment of COVID-19 pandemic in its second wave and the manner in which the State’s Health and other front-line department joined hands to ensure that despite the surge in cases, the distressing scenes (of people dying without care) witnessed elsewhere in the country was not allowed to happen in Kerala, dominated the best part of the Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s policy address at the inaugural session of the 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly on Friday.

While there were no new policy announcements, the Governor spoke at length on how Kerala’s health system derived the strength to face the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic from the decentralised, people-centric systems-building approach, which had come in for appreciation from various quarters.

Mr. Khan said that the government intended to treat preventive vaccines against COVID-19 as a public good, access to which will be free and inclusive. Despite the fiscal constraints, the government was stepping in to meet the fresh financial commitment to the exchequer to the tune of ₹1,000 crore, to meet the cost of providing COVID-19 vaccines for all.

The government was floating a global tender for procurement of three crore doses of vaccines, in addition to placing orders with domestic manufacturers for one crore doses.

Mr. Khan spoke of how Kerala’s social capital was once again on display, with people from all walks of life contributing generously towards the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund to help the government find funds for vaccine procurement.

As COVID surged, the government quickly stepped in to expand the surge capacity in hospitals by adding ICU beds, ventilators and enhanced oxygen supply, which was bolstered by the setting up of COVID first- and second-line treatment centres to cater to patients with mild and moderate disease.

Continuous training programmes and volunteer recruitment through the ‘COVID Brigade’ and the services of the 3.8-lakh strong Community Volunteer Corps ensured a steady flow of trained human resources to these centres.

The lab network was strengthened from a single testing lab at the beginning of the pandemic to 2,667 labs at present for COVID-19 testing in Kerala.

Treatment was provided free of cost in all government hospitals while cashless treatment was also provided through private hospitals empanelled under Karunya Arogya Suraksha Padhati. A treatment package for COVID-19 patients walking into private hospitals was also declared for bringing fairness in treatment costs across various hospitals.

Though over 23 lakh cases of COVID had been reported in the State so far, the State had managed to contain the deaths to over 6,000 cases.

Mr. Khan spoke about how well Kerala was conducting the vaccination drive, with over 65 lakh persons administered the first dose and over 20 lakh given the second dose. Kerala’s vaccination programme had been lauded for its efficiency and zero wastage of vaccines, he said.

He said that the district administrations and the Local Self Governments of Kerala, both rural and urban, had played a critical role in the management of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its second surge, by engaging themselves in surveillance activities as well as the management of domiciliary care centres and supply of food and other requirements to the households affected by COVID. Community kitchens ensured that none went hungry during the pandemic.

Under the ‘Aardram Mission’, a programme that focussed on improving primary care service delivery, Out Patient Department (OPD) transformation work in eight Medical Colleges, nine District /General Hospitals, and one Taluk Hospital had been completed.

Mr. Khan also detailed the programmes envisaged under Ayush Department for the post-COVID care of patients. The proposed International Research Institute for Ayurveda at Kannur, once established, would facilitate the scientific validation and systematic documentation of Ayurvedic therapies, he added.

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