It’s time to decentralize our services and bolster the public health sector
Coronavirus or Covid-19 has presented us with a national crisis.
There is every reason to be pessimistic at this time, when many other nations are exhausted in their fight against this virus. However, I am still hopeful and I think that we will come out of this disease strong. We will come out of it because we have a strong national backbone that has been built through hundreds of years of battling natural calamities.
We are a hopeful and indomitable nation by design. Our geographic location has taught us to weather storms and typhoons in a cyclical fashion year after year.
But, it is certainly true that the novel coronavirus is truly a novel crisis. We have not dealt with something like this is recent times.
So we are, reasonably, afraid. In panic mode we are stocking up on daily necessities like food grains and soaps and hand sanitizers. This is dangerous, because this drains out the markets and the lower income people become the worst sufferers. However, we would be able to spring out of this if the government responds with agility. But will it be able to do so?
The government’s response so far is less than impressive. Although it must be acknowledged that it is doing as much as possible with the resources it has, it must also be acknowledged that there is a lack of pre-planning in tackling this pandemic. This is extremely visible in the case of the lack of the PPEs.
The lack of personal protection equipment overall has created a pandemonium. Even the doctors and nurses do not have the necessary equipments to treat patients who are affected by the coronavirus, let alone volunteers who want to safeguard their locales from the virus.
The individual pieces necessary to make a “do-it-yourself” PPE is all but out of market, and the government does not seem prepared to provide PPEs to those who need or want them right now.
This severe lack of preparation to tackle a national crisis shows how callous we are and how exposed we are to epidemics. Even when corona passes, would our national budget and stances change towards a more welfare maximizing stance, where a new virus will not be able to permeate our people the way corona is now threatening to permeate?
From personal experience, I have seen the public hospitals in Dhaka getting flooded with patients who do not know if they have the coronavirus or not. The testing of the virus is centralized in the hands of a few. This makes sure that those who are far away from the centre of the government would be much more vulnerable to the paranoia that comes with this epidemic.
My friends who have gone to the villages say that they do not even know what to do about themselves or their relatives who are showing coronavirus symptoms.
A proper pre-plan would make sure that, at least, all the divisional centres would have a testing site. It is true that you cannot foresee something like corona, but it is also true that the task of the government is to plan for the unforeseen.
So, this is not exactly a rebuke of the government, but a lamentation that the performance could have been much better if decentralization of health care and emphasis on health care were the priorities of the ruling regime to begin with.
There is no point in playing a blame game at this time of national crisis, I acknowledge that. But I also sincerely hope that this national epidemic comes and goes as an educational opportunity for the government -- a national epidemic can hit at any time.
And without a proper plan to decentralize the services and bolstering our public health sector, a new crisis after corona may hit at any time.
Let’s hope that we would be prepared for the new virus, or natural calamity before then.
Anupam Debashis Roy is the author of Not All Springs End Winter. He is also the editor and organizer of Muktiforum.