The Financial Express

Contacting IEDCR, DGHS proves frustrating

Neil Ray  | Published: March 22, 2020 21:00:58 | Updated: March 23, 2020 22:04:32

Contacting IEDCR, DGHS proves frustrating

If the honchos of the health department of the country are to be believed, information on covid-19 is just a fingertip away. Anyone willing to know anything about coronavirus infection or its symptoms is supposed to press the buttons of a cellphone to connect with the hotlines of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) or Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to get the required information.

Sounds nice! But people with genuine concern about their own or near and dear ones' health conditions have a most horrible experience with such phone calls or e-mail correspondence. One may try this to know how frustrating such attempts prove. On Friday, the hotlines, Facebook and e-mail were published in newspapers. A highly responsible person claimed that if someone with symptom of coronavirus infection contacts the IEDCR from home, s/he would not have to come to the institute; rather staff members of the institutes would visit the contacted person's home to collect blood sample for testing. As if the IEDCR is well equipped to carry out such tests!

When repeated phone calls are rebuffed with the machine answer: 'sorry, all the numbers are busy', one can turn to e-mail correspondence. In one particular case an e-mail was sent, detailing the symptoms to know about the health status or instructions at 11:37 in the morning, Friday. The mail sender waited all day long but there was no reply. He even tried phone calls in the evening with the same result. Until Saturday evening (6:15pm), the mailer received no reply from the IEDCR. Frustrated, he even tried the DGHS call centre and there was the same result.

If this is how anxious and even desperate people facing the risk of coronavirus attack are served online or otherwise, there is every chance the authorities will make a mess of the preventive action against the virus. The earlier one gets diagnosed, the better for not only the patient concerned but also for others around him. If a person is tested positive, s/he can not only stop moving out of home but also isolate himself from members of his or her family in order to stop the spread of covid-19.

The hard truth is that the authorities kept napping when such arrangements were supposed to be kept ready. Now physicians themselves are afraid of catching the disease in the absence of protective gears. Without such kits called personal protective equipment (PPE) and training to deal with epidemics of this order, physicians are more at risk. If they knew they would be safe at the time of attending corona patients, they surely would not have balked out of their duties. It is not for nothing that some internee doctors have refused to attend their duties at a hospital in protest.

Reportedly, returnees from China were taken better care of in terms of quarantine or isolation but later on, when migrants from Italy and other countries started arriving in greater numbers, the arrangement proved inadequate and this is why there was a spat between the returnees and the members of the law enforcement at the shabbily set up quarantines. Evidently, the authorities did not take the threat as seriously as it should have been done. They failed to realise the gravity of the situation. Not a single person got the disease at home. It was the returnees who carried it and had all of them been screened and quarantined without laxity, the pandemic threatening the country now could be avoided.

When one cannot reach the IEDCR trying frantically and even receives no reply to e-mail after hours or days, the message is clear: establishments such as these are not prepared. Now that China is sending an expert team along with a large consignment of kits and protective gears, hopefully things will move apace to deal with the worsening coronavirus situation.



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