Hyderabad: Over 34,63,972 cases and 62,550 deaths. That’s India’s COVID tally as of August 30, 2020. We are third in the list just behind Brazil and America. While the 24-hour figures of COVID +ve for Brazil and America are coming down, India’s are increasing. In Telangana, the number of cases in the last 24 hours is 2,751. More the tests, more positive cases are being reported. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is surprisingly (welcome though) showing a downward trend. This mayhem of figures, statistics, data interpretation, the fragile health care infra giving way, the exploitative business agility of private sector in healthcare, while the executive seems to have lost its way, political sagacity is at an all-time low ebb, the fatigue of more than 5 months of lockdowns and unlocks seems to have taken a toll. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been advocating community engagement as one of the effective ways of dealing with the pandemic. As we read or hear about the various initiatives being taken up to combat the virus, the lack of volunteers and citizen-led initiatives is stark.

UFERWAS- Initiative

Hyderabad based UFERWAS with a claimed membership of over 3,500 RWAS has taken up a unique initiative to join hands with the government. With citizens of the city in a confusing situation with regard to testing and treatment facilities, UFERWAS created a WhatsApp group, as a first step, to link hospitals providing testing facilities and roped in hotels which were willing to offer their services for isolation room facilities at reasonable costs. It formed citizen groups comprising of doctors, active residents, media representatives to establish linkages with GHMC and health department as also voluntarily checking / counselling the colony residents. Efforts to interact with the health minister fructified, through the efforts of an active political functionary Rajshekar Reddy. United Federation of RWAs (UFERWAS) team met the health minister Eatala Rajender to seek assistance and offer voluntary participation of the community in the management of the Covid-19 situation.

Areas of Collaboration

UFERWAS requested the health minister to involve the Resident Welfare Associations in sharing information about the location and functioning of Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in various areas of the twin cities. Further, they requested for community testing facilities in respective community areas monitored by PHCs or other organisations like CCMB. UFERWAS also requested for information on facilities available in government hospitals and sharing information of COVID positive cases ward-wise so that RWAs can monitor the condition of home isolation and mild cases. The minister appreciated the efforts of the UFERWAS in associating with the government and convened a coordination meeting with concerned health officials to work out the modalities of community engagement. The minister said that representatives of RWAs could complement the efforts of the government and he welcomed the suggestion to associate with the RWAs in a coordinated manner.UFERWAS also offered its voluntary services for managing a call centre, administration duties as well as counselling of the COVID-affected.

Government Role

The health minister spoke at length on issues pertaining to how we have to co-habit with Corona. He stated that government cannot be everywhere and therefore the role of RWAs is significant. He expressed regret that in certain cases Corona-affected faced social stigma and were ostracised. He advocated the use of community/function halls as isolation centres, to be managed by the health department with the active participation of UFERWAS. He reiterated the Chief Minister’s commitment to saving lives in Telangana and said that Corona has no strength to kill if early detection is done. He said that the mortality rate in Telangana was 0.8 % as against the national average of 2%. He appealed to the people to take precautions. He further assured that the health department will offer all support by way of medicines and food to isolation care centres. He asked UFERWAS to educate the residents about the government facilities.

UFERWAS advocated a joint strategy for partnership with the community in taking on the COVID challenge. B.T. Srinivasan, general secretary of UFERWAS, highlighted the areas of possible cooperation by way of sharing of PHC information with details of concerned officers, decentralised testing services at various community locations and counselling services at isolation centres. Maj Shiva Kiran of UFERWAS said that volunteers of UFERWAS could handle call centre, take up ward-wise home isolation monitoring and suggested that Corona combat initiatives could first be taken up in 10-15 locations where RWAs are strong- Malkajgiri, Begumpet, Mehdipatnam, Kalyannagar, Masab Tank, AS Rao Nagar, Kukatpally, Medchal, Yapral, Sainikpuri and other locations.

Dr Srinivas Rao, Director, Medical and Health Services, said that all DMHOs will be directed to work with respective RWAs and would be assured of providing mobile testing services as required. While appreciating the services of the RWAs, he exhorted the use of masks as a singular weapon of protection against Corona. He assured that government facilities at Gandhi Hospital, TIMS, Chest Hospital and King Koti Hospital were totally free and those wishing to avail hospital facilities could do so. He suggested the formation of a WhatsApp group to coordinate the convergence effort with UFWERAS. Even hospitals linked to medical colleges, such as Malla Reddy Medical College and Hospitals are accepting COVID patients, should be included in the government network

Way Forward

UFERWAS has already identified about 15 locations in the city covering 2,000 RWAs which would initiate the COVID combat campaign. RWA volunteer teams are in place and the allocation of testing resources is awaited. Further, UFERWAS is seeking government intervention in making available beds in hospitals in case needed at government decided rates, which should be monitored by a joint coordination committee of UFERWAS, health department, hospitals- government and private. Towards this, the functional WhatsApp group was enlarged with the inclusion of the director, Medical and Health Services and secretary of the minister.

The next 2-3 weeks will show how committed the government is in working with the UFERWAS in showing the way to the world to take on the Covid-19 crisis.

Written By Major Shiv Kiran ( Retired)

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