The management of COVID-19 in India has lessons for the health infrastructure for the future not merely for India but also for other developing countries in Latin America and Africa. In just a day there have been 14,500 plus new cases and about 375 lives have been lost, which are the highest recorded hitherto, in India (“India reports record rise in coronavirus cases as major city locks down” June 20, Gulf Today).
In Chennai there have been incidents of two patients committing suicide in the hospital. The body of a third patient who fled from the hospital, was found floating in a river. There is need to improve psychological counselling in the hospitals, so that patients do not give up hope.
India also needs clarity on key issues. For instance the Centre has just decided that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms has to be moved to institutional quarantine centres for the first five days. The person can be shifted to home quarantine after that, if the symptoms do not require hospitalisation. The Delhi Government has protested that it does not have the resources to quarantine and manage the large number of people who have the symptoms, but have not tested positive. It is important to shift cases to institutional quarantine centres only if they are well staffed and maintained. Otherwise, it can lead to depression and more infections. Such issues between the managing authorities also create uncertainties in the minds of the citizens.
The hospital staff like doctors, nurses, etc., are under unprecedented stress. India needs to build more medical college and nursing training institutes. It must also have systems and operating cultures, which incentivise the medical staff to stay and work in India, rather than work in other countries. The best of talent is sometimes seeking greener pastures abroad because of better operating conditions and facilities.