Time to salute the Covid warriors
IFP Editorial: Manipur should also go for increasing its health infrastructure and manpower of health professionals taking into consideration future pandemics.
To combat the menace of the deadly pandemic, the state recruited several medical professionals including nurses and multi-tasking staff to manage the temporary Covid Care Centres opened at UNNACO, Lamboi-khongnangkhong and RD Wing Lamphelpat and to supplement the efforts of the already available health professionals under its wing. As the Covid number gradually reduced, the state had no option but to close down the Covid centres and lay off the contractual staff. The contractual staff were engaged for three months from August 3 last year. Their service was extended for another three months and they were utilised for a total of six months. Their contract expired on February 2 and they have been trying to meet the state chief minister in search of a deliverance taking into consideration their sacrifice during Covid times. On Tuesday, these contractual nurses and multi-tasking staff (MTS) attempted to storm CM’s Bungalow, decrying the alleged termination of their services by the government. They drew the attention of the government to make arrangements for absorbing the contractual staff, who have risked their lives, in vacant posts of nurses and MTS in the hills as well as the valley. The aggrieved contractual staff also appealed to the government to value the services they have rendered to save human lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The contractual staff on Monday staged a sit-in protest at RD Wing Complex, Lamphel and even locked the medical directorate over the issue.
It must have been a hard decision on the part of the chief minister and the government to terminate the services of these nurses and staff, given the services they had extended in hard times. But, it was clear right from the beginning that their appointments were purely contractual and as soon as the tide is over they had to go. Nobody in his right mind would dispute that. Yet, one has to consider their sacrifice in trying times. It is in this situation that we would like to flag the Union Budget and the allocation in the health sector. India’s overall allocation for health and well-being has soared by 137 per cent in the financial year 2021-22 to Rs 2.23 lakh crore compared to the budgeted spending in 2020-21 as the country seeks to boost the capacity of its health-care system to detect and cure new and emerging diseases in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Budget unveiled by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman features a new centrally sponsored initiative called the PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana. The initiative is aimed at developing capacities of the primary, secondary, and tertiary care health systems, strengthen existing national institutions, and create new institutions, to detect and cure new diseases in the wake of the pandemic that has affected 10.7 million people and claimed more than 154,000 lives in the country. It will be in addition to the National Health Mission.
This year’s budget proposal rests on six pillars, of which health and well-being is one of the key pillars. The government’s three focus areas in the health segment mentioned by the finance minister were preventive, curative and well-being. In order to better deal with infectious disease outbreaks, the government plans to set up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states, and establishing critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions. The plan for strengthening the NCDC will also include upgrading its five regional branches, and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units. In the state context, the budget allocation of Regional Institute of Medical Sciences at Lamphelpat received a major dosage which ought to propel its infrastructure including manpower. Likewise, the state should also go for increasing its health infrastructure and manpower of health professionals taking into consideration future pandemics. The state has no dearth of health professionals and now is the time to think of preparedness to meet any eventuality in the future. It would be a win-win situation where the state gets to upgrade its health infrastructure while also accommodating hundreds of trained health professionals.