Don’t delay building large, makeshift Covid care facilities

The world has known since February that a key part of the Wuhan fightback against the novel coronavirus was converting school dorms and hotels into mass quarantine facilities and building field hospitals out of sports stadiums, exhibition centers and even cultural complexes. Let us say India began this fightback in earnest on March 25. Two and  half months later confirmed cases are near 3 lakh and still climbing upwards, with uncertainty about when the peak will hit as different parts of the country experience different infection trajectories. For India too, a key part of the fightback has to be increasing bed inventory through temporary field hospitals.

Read: SC seeks response of Centre, states on treatment of Covid patients, handling of bodies

This will allow traditional hospitals to focus on patients in more serious condition. It has to be remembered that if these hospitals themselves turn into hotspots it will also reduce India’s already low availability of doctors and other health workers. Governments imposing intermittent curbs on testing or coercing ill-considered mixing of Covid and non-Covid care at the same facility, non-payment of salaries, attacks on doctors, etc, all make our precious hospitals unnecessary vulnerable. Such behaviors must not continue otherwise all of us will pay a high price for them.

Back to the issue of building large scale but basic and temporary Covid care field hospitals, by now there are plentiful scalable grids available for this. But administrations really need to pick up pace. We are far past the time when governments can just tell us which spaces they have scouted out for constructing these makeshift facilities. Show us instead that these facilities are ready, today, this week, alongside the necessary medical equipment, proper toilet facilities and manpower. Don’t wait till the patients stand in crowded queues – as it happened earlier with the migrant workers desperate for transport. Ready these beds for the patients will come.

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