COVID has magnified Meghalaya's fragile health infrastructure

Despite investing two hundred crores on the pandemic, the state government has failed to secure last mile connectivity

COVID-19 has changed the priorities of health systems around the world. Countries are faced with the immense challenge of rapidly responding to the pandemic while continuing to make progress against other health goals. Here in Meghalaya with limited time and resources, existing barriers to health services and inefficiencies in health systems appear magnified. However the state's healthcare system has major inadequacies barring North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS). None of the government hospitals are equipped. Some of the challenges of our healthcare system are lack of awareness and lack of accessibility. Some of the hospitals and primary health care centres are so far that there are no motorable roads to reach there. Workforce shortages are also rampant in the state.
A recent post on social media by the district administration of East Garo hills about villagers carrying a pregnant woman on a make-shift stretcher till the point where vehicles cannot reach (so that she could deliver the baby in a hospital) rightly point out to the deplorable road conditions of rural Meghalaya. This raises a simple question- How will Meghalaya fight COVID if incase of any eventualities, a critical patient from the rural areas cannot be brought to the health centres? Interestingly Chief Minister Conrad Sangma says, "We have gone the extra mile in terms of fighting COVID. While there is no perfect system, I think what is important is to keep improving on the existing system and look forward for possible outcomes."
Rs 200 crore allocated by the government for the pandemic
Villagers of East Garo Hills carrying a pregnant woman on a make-shift stretcher till the point where vehicles cannot reach is a glaring testimony of the faulty health ecosystem
Although a designated COVID hospital is yet to come up, several projects are in the pipeline and shall be completed by next year. Meanwhile, Sangma claimed that the government has spent more than Rs 200 crore on COVID-19 measures till date. The Chief Minister, who is also holding the finance portfolio, added that overall, the COVID-19 fight has put a lot of financial burden on the state.He admitted that the 'war' against the virus has been a battle for the government since there has been a lot of financial involvement.
Pregnant woman  being carried on a stretcher in East Garo Hills
Image: Pregnant woman being carried on a stretcher in East Garo Hills
Move towards improving health infrastructure
As the Meghalaya Government approved Rs 75 crore for the improvement of health infrastructure, the state also advanced its steps to procure more oxygen cylinders, more beds, and ventilators. It may be noted that Health Minister AL Hek has admitted that there is an acute shortage of resources as the state moves forward in its fight against COVID. The Chief Minister has assured the people of the state by saying that the government has done the best it could and that it will continue to improve on what it is doing. "If there is any shortcoming from our side we will inquire into the issue and the requisite actions shall be undertaken to improve every situation," he stated. 

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