Homage To Morlem Senior

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Improve COVID critical care systems for comorbid cases

GOA recorded its first death from COVID-19 on Monday. The victim was an 85-year-old man from Morlem village in Sattari taluka with comorbid conditions. His death happened 88 days after the state recorded its first infection on March 25. The state witnessed seven cases in quick succession thereafter, all of whom recovered and returned home. Though the state moved into a green zone, the new tag was short-lived. Soon after the state borders were opened a truck driver was found positive, followed by a family of five from Ponda and their driver that returned from Maharashtra. The state saw a huge increase in COVID-19 positive cases with the Mangor Hill area of the port town of Vasco declared as the first containment zone in Goa. Most of the cases in the state have spread from Mangor Hill. The state has so far recorded 818 COVID-19 cases, of whom 135 have recovered.

The state has more than 700 active COVID-19 cases. With more and more cases being reported every day, the numbers are likely to increase significantly in the days ahead. The steady increase in cases appears to be taking a serious toll on the healthcare system. An example of pressure on health care officials was witnessed in the cases of some persons from Ambelim who were found to be coronavirus positive. Though their COVID status was conveyed to them at 5 p.m., the ambulances to shift them to the COVID care centre arrived only after midnight, after they had retired for the day waiting for hours for health workers to come. Their ordeal did not end after they were shifted to the COVID care facility as they were made to wait until 3 a.m. for beds to be made available. A further shock awaited the patients, some of whom were diabetic, as breakfast was served to them the next day only at 11.30 a.m.  These experiences suggest poor institutional and individual management at COVID care centres.

After some faltering and mismanagement in the early days of the outbreak of the virus, the state health authorities had done well to quell the spread of the virus; they managed to bring the state under green zone with all the seven patients reported positive for between March 25 and April 4 recovering from the disease. It was perhaps the success of maintaining a clean slate that led the state to lower its guards against COVID-19, especially after the stringent conditions in the lockdown were relaxed and movement of vehicles and people was allowed. It was this laxity that led to Mangor Hill turning into a coronavirus hotspot. The failure of the government to declare Mangor Hill and its adjoining areas immediately as a containment zones allowed visits of people from other areas to the locality. Some of the visitors caught the virus and carried it to their homes and passed it onto members of their families and friends. The mysterious reluctance of the government to declare affected areas in Vasco as containment zones drove people in other parts of the state to decide to impose local lockdown of their villages or wards.

With spurt in cases, the health authorities have their task cut out to cater to the growing number of coronavirus patients. Though the government has declared various residencies of the tourism department as COVID care centres, it has to also ensure that there was enough manpower with adequate training and protective gears to take care of the needs of the growing number of COVID-19 patients. The state must prepare for more critical patients to be put on ventilators. After the death of the elderly COVID patient from Morlem, it was sad to see ministers portraying a picture as though he alone was responsible for his death. The government should have paid a befitting tribute to the elderly man by saying, “Thank you for forcing us to work towards being better equipped.” Goa must improve its critical care for comorbid patients. The government must procure more ventilators and install them for emergencies. The death of the elderly man from Morlem should not go in vain. The government must make sure there is no more mortality from COVID-19.