Officialdom struggles to mend broken healthcare system in IndiaWorld | 4 May 2021 1:12 pm
The staggering number of coronavirus deaths in India reflect the fragility of the health system, AP reports.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has countered criticism by pointing out that the underfunding of health care has been chronic.
But this was all the more reason for authorities to use the several months when infections in India declined to shore up the system, said Dr. Vineeta Bal of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.
“Only a patchwork improvement would’ve been possible,” she said. But the country “didn’t even do that.”
Now authorities are scrambling to make up for lost time. Beds are being added in hospitals, more tests are being done, oxygen is being sent from one corner of the country to another, and manufacturing of the few drugs effective against the virus is being scaled up.
The challenges are steep in states where elections were held and unmasked crowds probably worsened the spread of the virus. The average number of daily infections in West Bengal state has increased by a multiple of 32 to over 17,000 since the balloting began.
“It’s a terrifying crisis,” said Dr. Punyabrata Goon, convener of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum.
Goon added that the state also needs to hasten immunizations. But the world’s largest maker of vaccines is short of shots — the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages.
Experts are also worried the prices being charged for shots will make it harder for the poor to get vaccinated. On Monday, opposition parties urged the government make vaccinations free to all Indians.
India is vaccinating about 2.1 million people daily, or around 0.15 percent of its population.
“This is not going to end very soon,” said Dr. Ravi Gupta, a virus expert at the University of Cambridge in England. “And really ... the soul of the country is at risk in a way.”