Many have compared the COVID-19 pandemic to the invasion of an invisible army that must be fought with the entire arsenal available in the world. However, it is a stark reality that this arsenal is disproportionately strewn across the world. Consequently states and countries having frugal resources are definitely facing a more challenging time. In this context, Meghalaya has become a symbol of resilience and hope for the rest of the country. The state's collective resolve to fight the COVID -19 pandemic is visible in terms of the precautionary efforts. The state scores well in terms of testing but its infrastructure and resources to treat the disease are actually quite dismal.
Since the very outbreak of the pandemic, people of Meghalaya have been apprehensive about the scale and quantity of existing medical infrastructure and paraphernalia that would be required in the containment and treatment of the disease. These apprehensions have intensified after the recent surge of positive cases. Everyone is asking or contemplating on one question- How prepared really is Meghalaya is to fight COVID? Can the state sustain the second wave of the pandemic?
We spoke to Health Minister AL Hek to understand more."We need more ventilators and more medical facilities. We need to increase the number of corona care centers and quarantine centers simply because we don't know what will happen during the next spike," the Health Minister said."Any moment there might be a drastic rise in cases. The second wave of the pandemic might also suddenly happen and therefore we have to be cautious and take precautions from now," Hek stated.
Healthcare infrastructure shortages have always been a chronic challenge for Meghalaya
Interestingly, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma during his Independence Day speech on August 15 had informed: "We are equipped with around 1,500 dedicated COVID beds. We also have 32 dedicated ventilators, 80 BiPap Machines and over 2,56,000 Personal Protective Equipments. Our testing capacity has dramatically improved. From 30 tests per day in April, we have scaled up our daily testing capacity to almost 1,000 RT-PCR tests. We now have 12 testing centres spread across nine districts of the State. The remaining two districts will also be provided with testing facilities very shortly." So it's obvious that it is 'testing' on which the ruling state government is banking.
But this has not actually translated to any assurance for the people of the state. With poor public healthcare facilities, lack of resources, people fear that the impact of COVID-19 could be catastrophic. Incidentally the Meghalaya Government has repeatedly written to Union Health Ministry seeking support. In the words of Sangma, "We have already instructed our health department to be prepared for any eventuality and in fact I have also written to the union health minister for necessary support."
Incidentally, healthcare infrastructure shortages have always been a chronic challenge for Meghalaya.