Maharashtra falls back on Kerala to cover up healthcare deficiencies

The State of Maharashtra is one of the worst-affected areas in the country in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Naturally, it goes without saying that the rapid spread of coronavirus in the State and majorly in metros like Mumbai and Pune, has put immense pressure on the State’s healthcare system. The administration had not previously planned for scaling up healthcare personnel and infrastructure over the years for combating large-scale crises should they have occurred. The lack of vision and administrative lacunae has now come back to bite the State Government which has sought help from States like Kerala in order to tide over the current crisis. 

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Pune Zilla Parishad advertises healthcare positions in other States 

The Zilla Parishad in Pune, for instance, has been grappling with a severe shortage of nurses and doctors. Pune is currently Maharashtra’s worst-affected city and in spite of repeated advertisements being released by the administrative body, it has been unable to get qualified nurses and doctors for tending to affected individuals. The Pune Zilla Parishad has decided to advertise for positions of health workers, nurses, and doctors in the other Indian States rather than Maharashtra. Health worker, doctor, and nurse positions will be advertised in States like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka along with Maharashtra. It will now be the sole Zilla Parishad to advertise outside its home State. The Government has issued its approval for filling up 1,774 vacancies for the body inclusive of pharmacists and several other positions. 

After taking great pains, just 1132 positions have been filled up till now and 582 vacancies still remain at the Pune Zilla Parishad. There are 299 and 260 nurse and doctor positions still vacant as per the last report. 

Maharashtra officially appeals to Kerala for help 

The State Government of Maharashtra has officially appealed to the State of Kerala for assistance in providing 100 skilled nurses and 50 experienced doctors for tackling the COVID-19 crisis in Mumbai. Kerala has been a State where the forward-thinking vision of the administration has led to the availability of solid medical infrastructure and human resources. Nurses and healthcare workers in Kerala are also known country-wide for their skills, expertise, and resourcefulness. The Director of Medical Education & Research, Maharashtra, Dr. T.P. Lahane, addressed a letter to K.K. Shailaja, the Health Minister of Kerala, conveying this request for management of the dedicated 600-bed COVID-19 center coming up at Mahalakshmi Race Course in Mumbai. The facility will encompass an ICU with 125 beds and patients showing moderate symptoms are being admitted here. 

The letter states that with Mumbai’s healthcare personnel stretched to full capacity and the steadily increasing COVID-19 cases in the densely populated areas of the city and neighboring Pune, there is naturally a pressing need for more nurses and doctors in Maharashtra. The State Government has promised accommodation, personal protective gear, and medicine for these nurses and doctors. MBBS doctors have been offered Rs. 80,000 each month while MS/MD specialist doctors will get Rs. 2 lakh each month including intensivists and physicians. Skilled nursing staff will get Rs. 30,000 every month. 

In fact, the Health Minister of Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope, had reached out to his counterpart in Kerala on the 18th of May, 2020, for discussing specific measures implemented in Kerala for tackling COVID-19. The MMR (Mumbai Metropolitan Region) is reportedly exploring options to call trained doctors from other Maharashtra districts for battling coronavirus in Mumbai while enabling a little rest for overworked personnel currently in the city. 

Pooling in a higher number of doctors will ensure some much-needed rest for overworked and fatigued medical personnel in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai and Pune. Approximately 11,000 doctors (both private and government professionals) are currently helping the State Government tackle the crisis. The private medical practitioners were directed to report from 6th May 2020, by the Government with a view towards serving patients for 15 days at least. Till 11th May 2020, the State received approximately 7,000 applications in this regard as per reports. 

Lack of administrative vision to build up medical infrastructure at par with States like Kerala which are famed for their quality of medical care, trained nurses and care workers, and experienced doctors, has now proved problematic for Maharashtra. The State now has to rely on the assistance provided by Kerala and other States to draft in new medical personnel for filling up vacancies and taking the load off overworked doctors, nurses, and other workers. 

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