Expert Speak Health Express
Published on Apr 28, 2020
Why is the Covid 19 situation so grim in MP?

One of the worst managed states when it comes to managing the Corona Virus pandemic is Madhya Pradesh. With nearly 2165 number of infections and 110 deaths the state has become a hotspot. So, the question arises that why has the situation in MP become so grim given that it is an inland state? Could lax approach and ill preparedness be the reason why MP is losing it battle against the virus? While other states were preparing for a lockdown in March (which was already too late by many standards) MP was busy with power jostling. The politicians of the state were concerned more about who will be the next chief minister of the state, rather than what the current chief minister can do for the virus-stricken people. That in itself is a explainer that why all of March and till recently the state leadership has been concerned more about social and political dimension of the disease rather than preventing its spread.

The new CM Shivraj Chauhan was so unconcerned that he kept reprimanding the journalists Yeh Corona Vorona kuch nahi hota hai (This Corona is nothing to be concerned of). After having got into the saddle as CM and before planning to tackle the situation, the state's healthcare administration literally collapsed. The administrative machinery of the health department who were in the forefront of the Corona virus fight showed sign of infection and nearly 50 of the  state health personnel including the CM and Governor went into quarantine. Thus, the people and the state machinery at the district level who were already in lockdown were left to their own devices with no directives or action plan coming from the capital – Bhopal.

Till date the state has not taken a stock of the quarantine facilities in the state hospitals. Neither has it set any target of ramping up the state testing centres, preparedness of municipalities to disinfect cities, kits for medical workers, availability PPE's, stocks of medicines in pharmacies, safety and precautions of the doctors in the Corona fight etc. Even today any advisory issued by the state is not getting implemented because the district administration does not know how these diktats are to be executed. The health ministry official said, “In the beginning, there was a failure of planning and overconfidence of the bureaucrats, which brought this calamity upon us. There was no proper monitoring and testing kits were not available. In fact, the health department didn’t even know what kind of testing kits were needed.”

While other states had started to do airport checks the two major airports Indore and Bhopal were not even checking the temperature of the passengers arriving from different states or countries. They did not know what was to be done and they did not have equipments. As if this confusion was not enough there were arrivals of ‘Jamaatis’ from Delhi for which the state did not bother to track, test or trace. With the situation already slipping out of his hand and inefficiency on part of the administration chief-minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan immediately used ‘Jamaatis’ as a political propaganda for the spread of the virus. However his hollow claim was laid bare when the state's doctors said that only 20 ‘Jamaatis’ tested positive of Covid19.

On the other hand bureaucrats of the Health department like Pallavi Jain Govil hid the travel history of her son who returned positive from the US. She continued to work despite testing positive and in turn continued to work for the department. She was subsequently shunted out of the department but the damage was already done and infection had spread to the entire department infecting nearly 60 plus people. After this episode, the CM was busy defending the action of his bureaucrats Vs. the infection spread by Jamaat. Till such time the doctors report of Jamaatis stated that there was no link found between the spread of virus and Jamaat.

Besides having infected many, the state bureaucracy was up-to strange demands and tantrums over the treatment that they were receiving. They were first admitted to well-equipped government hospital AIIMS that had quarantine facilities, but they were demanding that they be shifted to private hospitals where there were better comforts. The treatment of personnel in private hospitals could have been overlooked if the individuals were paying from their own pockets, but that was not the case. CM Chauhan promptly issued orders that the state government will reimburse the expenses of private hospitals and assigned two such facilities for Corona fight.

Incidentally the owners of the two private hospitals have been found to have a  link to the Vyapam Scam, that has links with CM Chauhan. When the state boasts of newly created well prepared AIIMS and some efficient government hospitals, then why this privilege for a few at the expense of taxpayer’s money? What is CM Chauhan’s intention behind this preference given to two hospitals that have links in the Vyapam scam?

Between the antics of the state and the life threatening Virus are the 8.3 crore people of the state with only 394 beds and 319 ventilators, additionally there are also 418 ICU beds and 132 ventilators in private medical colleges. The testing labs of the state are in a worst condition, not only are they short of staff but also not equipped to meet the massive demand. Samples of tests are piling up in testing lab and reports are not available even after 15 days. The tests are taking so long that patients who are suspected of the virus and are quarantined are asked to leave after five days – that too without the report. MP has hardly conducted 100 tests per million population.

Doctors are on record saying the situation would not have exploded if the testing would have been started earlier – now it is too late and too little. The state health bulletins coming from Bhopal are another indication of ill preparedness as there are discrepancy in data of infected patients' variations in as many as 18 districts out of the total 52 districts in the state. The state bulletins that are supposed to come after compilation in the evening are sometimes coming in the afternoon. The discrepancies and adhocism has prompted many to question if the government is manipulating numbers to hide the real situation?

In the Pandemic what really has come to light is how BIMARU states remain so – because of the feudal self-serving attitude of the leaders. The non serious approach of the state besides lack of planning smacks of how disinterested the leaders are in serving the people. The tall claims of leaders that they have come to serve the people are now laid bare for the citizens to see. MP has shown how wealth meant for the welfare and upliftment of the masses is shared only by a few.

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Bhagyashree Pande

Bhagyashree Pande

Bhagyashree Pande has worked as a journalist for nearly 20 years. She has worked with Times of India Financial Express Indian Express and The Tribune. ...

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