The year 2023 began on a note of caution as another sub-variant of Omicron emerged in some countries. The health system that began breathing easy in the second half of 2022 when the pandemic started waning, is now again on alert. The global surge has provoked authorities to check preparedness in terms of availability of medical facilities in hospitals, isolation wards, beds, oxygen facilities, and capacity of beds equipped with ventilator supports.
Public health experts are now asserting strengthening the surveillance system for monitoring emergence of new pathogens. In December, the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) had recommended setting up a Centre for Pandemic Preparedness (CPP) to help predict and prevent future outbreaks through stringent surveillance.
TAC Chairman M.K. Sudarshan told The Hindu that lessons from the previous epidemics and pandemics should be invested in the CPP.
“The centre should be able to forecast pandemics and alert the government about any new pandemic based on surveillance instead of attending to the needs as and when required. The CPP should also ensure preparedness for successful response in terms of skilled and adequate manpower, equipment, facilities, and communication, among other aspects. This should be a part of the State’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) from this year itself,” he said.
TAC member V. Ravi, who heads the State’s genomic surveillance committee, said the surveillance should be focused on severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), which is now driven by Influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.
“SARI surveillance should be targeted to pick up the emergence of new variants and new causes of SARI. It will also help in knowing what is driving hospital admissions. Besides, genome sequencing should be made more efficient,” he said.
The TAC has also recommended that the State formulate a vaccine policy on the lines of that of the Kerala government. Experts said this should be done this year itself.
New tenders for the 108 Arogya Kavacha ambulance service have been on the back-burner since 2018. In September last year, ambulance services in the State were hit due to a technical glitch. Public health experts said the State badly needs a high-tech ambulance service.
Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said tenders for the essential service are being finalised and a new vendor with enhanced services will be in place soon. The new service will have the latest technical features and will be a model in the entire country, he said.
State-run dialysis units
Over 4,000 renal patients undergoing dialysis in 169 government-run dialysis centres across the State since March 2017 are hoping for better services at least this year.
As of now, several dialysis machines in these centres are either dysfunctional or have not been serviced causing severe hardship to patients. Besides, they are forced to buy expensive injections and other medicine due to inadequate supply by the service provider.
In 2017, the dialysis scheme was awarded to BRS Health & Research Institute. In July 2021, when this service provider intimated the State government that it would no longer be able to continue with the services, the scheme was managed by the Health Department under the National Health Mission (NHM) from August 2021 till January 10, 2022.
Subsequently, the contract of the scheme was awarded to Kolkata-based ESKAG Sanjeevini Pvt. Ltd. Although the company’s contract ended in March, the State is yet to float a new tender.