Is India facing another healthcare crisis amidst an oxygen shortage?

Is India facing another healthcare crisis amidst an oxygen shortage?

While India can arrange more beds and oxygen tankers for the Covid-19 patients, the country is likely to face a serious crunch for skilled medical professionals. In such a scenario, the students of the healthcare sector can be deployed to ease the pressure to some extent.

The world is looking at India, as the country has become the new epicenter of Coronavirus infection. The second wave has created havoc across the country. With nearly four lakh daily infection rate and nearly 3,000 deaths being reported every day the country is facing an unprecedented crisis unseen by generations. The healthcare system is on the verge of collapse with severe oxygen shortage, non-availability of beds for the Covid positive patients. Even performing last rites for the deceased has entred into a crisis situation, as the crematoriums are running out of capacity.

Overall, our country is dealing with shortages on all fronts – oxygen, medicines, vaccines, healthcare professionals. While the demand is overwhelming, the capacity is limited. The result is this nationwide chaos and the system is collapsing. However, as it seems there is another crisis lurking in the shadows. With already several frontline Covid fighters such as doctors and nurses down with Covid, and a surging number of positive cases reaching nearly 4 lakh mark, we might not have enough doctors to treat the patients, at least if the current trajectory continues.

The challenge ahead

PIC

The second wave of Covid pandemic in India is expected to reach its peak by mid-May 2021. According to the estimates by experts, India could have nearly 3.5 million active cases between May 11-15. While the country is managing to arrange for more beds and oxygen and hopefully will be able to get those done right by the estimated time, India would suffer a serious crunch for skilled medical personnel.

According to data, in the pre-pandemic situation, India used to have one doctor for more than 1,400 patients. The government hospitals already had around 76% shortage of medical specialists, while the second wave has pushed the ratio to the limits. The doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are working through the week and overtime to save the lives of the patients.

What’s the solution?

There is an estimate that India currently has more than 25,000 students doctors and 200,000 nursing students who have completed their training and waiting to appear for their final exams. In this unprecedented crisis situation, India could tap into this talent pool. The exams can be postponed for now and these young talents can work with existing healthcare workers. This would help the country to sail through the crisis and reduce pressure from the doctors to some extent. Also, such a move will help in bringing more Covid patients under treatment.

Budget 2021

How can these young talents help?

There might be a concern about the expertise of these young doctors and nurses, which is justified, as you can not take any risk in healthcare, especially it comes to Coronavirus-led infectious disease. However, it is not all about treating patients in hospitals. These young talents can provide preventive medical care to the citizens, which also includes vaccination.

India is running the largest vaccination drive around the world. If we can use the talent pool of these young doctors and nurses, they can act as the second row of frontline workers. The government can open new vaccination centres and deploy these young healthcare professionals for vaccinating more and more people. This will expedite the vaccination drive and might help in bringing down the infection rate of the Covid-19 virus.

Status of vaccination in India

It has created a great controversy that India exported medicines to foreign countries but didn’t secure enough stock for its own citizens, which has created a shortage. The vaccine diplomacy of the Narendra Modi government has drawn massive flak from several fronts.

Previously, India was exporting 15% of its total vaccine supplies, but presently, the exports have been stopped. Currently, we have around 70-85 million doses per month and 170 million doses of vaccine per month are needed to cover 80% of the population by the end of 2021. Considering the volume of India’s population, the country requires around 220 million doses of vaccine per month. However, this is an estimated figure and it can fall short in reality.

The supply of vaccines is limited, as the number of producers is limited as well. Currently, India has two vaccines available for use – Covishield, and Covaxin. Covishield is the Oxford vaccine, and Covaxin is made in India. Combined these two producers, India gets about 70 to 85 million doses per month. As of now, more than 10 million doses are available in the states and union territories. Another eight million doses are expected to be supplied by the end of this week. The country is about to get the third vaccine Sputnik V in May 2021, which will probably ease the situation a bit.

Meanwhile, several vaccination centres across various states of the country have shut down because of the insufficient. In such a scenario, the production of vaccination is required to be expedited. Also, the government might think about approving more foreign-made vaccines to ease the situation, similar to Sputnik V.

Overall, it is a grim situation, but every dark tunnel ends at someplace. We must hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

Also Read: Of virus, vaccine, and vehemence

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