COVID-19: The Ground Reality of Our Healthcare Workers
With the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases in India and especially in Maharashtra, the situation for health care workers is reaching a dangerous level. Support for our medical professionals, who are our frontline of defence against COVID-19, is dwindling in many cases and severely lacking in some. 
 
In Mumbai, Municipal Commissioner, Pravin Pardeshi is understood to have mandated that each ward officer should, "supply PPEs to Medical Officer of Health (MoH) for use by dispensaries and health posts with staff, cemeteries, maternity homes, solid waste management personnel (only if required), and ambulances." There has been an indication from the municipal commissioner that the supply number of PPEs is sufficient to cater to all needs, with promises of 700 PPEs for G North Ward and 1000 for G South Ward.  
 
However, Moneylife Foundation, which has been working relentlessly at procuring and supplying key protective equipment finds that the reality is quite different—our findings are based on first hand information from all key hospitals, which continue to report new cases of doctors and medicare personnel testing positive with frightening regularity.
 
For starters, the quantity of PPEs from each ward officer are quite insufficient and in many cases have not even been delivered. Doctors who are handling COVID-19 cases in major hospitals around Mumbai say, that with 3 shifts of healthcare workers per day and the nature of the PPEs requiring them to be single use, demand for them has increased exponentially and there is dwindling supply. With a rise in the number of cases, an increased number of doctors have also been deputised to assist, which has lead to an added demand for effective PPEs.
 
“I think the requirements are growing. Besides COVID wards, emergency work, deliveries, surgeries, mortuary workers, labs etc also require protection. MCGM supply as far as I understand may not be enough nor consistent,” says Dr Mehta, who has been coordinating with Moneylife Foundation for the past few weeks in connection with aid relief. (we are protecting the names of doctors because of mindless disciplinary action reported by the media against those who speak out).
 
Due to the shortage of PPEs, in key patient facing functions,  a growing number of healthcare workers are coming in contact with COVID-19 patients, there has been a steady rise in the number of doctors and nurses being quarantined for safety. Doctors who are already quarantined and those who are working in COVID wards across the city, are afraid to go home to their families. Even hospitals are finding it difficult to arrange appropriate accommodation for them. Ideally for at-risk healthcare workers, accommodation should be provided near hospitals to cut down on their travel time. But often this has not been logistically possible. 
 
Here again, there is a mystery. The municipal corporation, under Praveen Pardeshi has worked with the hotel industry association to take over many hotels for doctors to stay. Even luxury hotels have offered their rooms for medical professionals and some have been taken over under emergency powers available to the municipal commissioner. Here again, the number of rooms offered seems limited and selective. Many key personnel in leading hospitals such as JJ Hospital and Sion Hospital urge for more facilities and are also looking beyond hotels to schools and performance halls that are shut down, but have basic infrastructure such as water and toilets. 
 
 
There have been reported cases of doctors working in COVID wards living in their cars to avoid going back to their families after their duty. 
 
Doctors, especially faculty members living far away from the hospital are having a hard time commuting as they do not have proper means of transport during the lockdown. Many healthcare workers who are in touch with Moneylife Foundation have suggested that doctors working in COVID wards should be accommodated in nearby hotels or hostels for ease of convenience and safety. They also suggested that empty school buildings near hospitals should be utilised for emergency accommodation of healthcare workers.
 
In early April, the Tata Group had opened Taj Hotels to accommodate doctors and nurses working in COVID wards. This is a great initiative that is also being followed by Hotel Sahil (Mumbai Central), which is currently hosting healthcare workers from Nair Hospital. A few doctors from Seven Hills Hospital have also reported that a number of doctors are currently being accommodated in a hostel nearby and some in the nearby Renaissance Hotel. Many doctors who are under quarantine or taking precautionary measures have now resorted to staying back at the hospital or nearby hostels.  
 
Government hospitals in Mumbai, are also facing shortages of testing kits, which means that every symptomatic patient cannot be tested and this is adding more pressure to the already over stressed healthcare system. Doctors working in COVID wards have urged the government to allow tie ups of government hospitals with all private labs, which they hope will significantly increase the rate of testing. They have also stressed the importance of secluding COVID-designated hospitals and not allowing patients within the premises for any malady other than COVID or for patients showing symptoms of COVID. 
 
 
Expressing concern for his colleagues a doctor from Nerul stresses thalt “all doctors at the screening zone of hospitals should have N95 masks with a face shield at the very least, as they are the first point of contact. PPEs should be a must for all those involved in COVID zones.” Fearing for the many doctors and interns posted at screening duty in peripheral areas, Dr Jain further added that they should also “perhaps be provided police protection in case of any hostilities.”
 
These healthcare workers are bravely facing the pandemic as our first line of defence and should be supported by the government with effective PPEs, increased testing and better logistical support if we are to curb the spread of the virus.
 
At the request of a doctor from Sion Hospital, Moneylife Foundation has found a generous donor to help procure a Smart Covid OPD that will allow contact-less screening of suspected COVID patients.  If successful, many other donors are willing to help make things a little safer for medical warriors, whose lives are at risk in this raging pandemic. 
 
The alumni association of Mumbai University’s economics department has joined Moneylife Foundation in this relief work focused on medical workers and hospitals. 
 
To donate please click here.
 

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    COMMENTS

    gcmbinty.37

    7 months ago

    Incidentally, I suggested to the Secretary, GoI, Department of Consumer Affairs, on an appeal from the Resident Doctors Association of VMM & Safdarjang Hospital, New Delhi, to donate funds/PPE for protection kits for the doctors and nursing staff engaged in protection of corona virus patients they are short of, that consumers are also desirous of making specific contribution of Rs.5 crores from the unclaimed and un-refunded personal money diverted to The Finance Act of 2015 diverted to the newly inserted Chapter VII, by placing before the Central Consumer Protection Council(CCPPC) under the Consumer Protection Act by passing a special RESOLUTION. CCPC is the parliament of the consumers represented by the consumers of India.

    The Government of India is capable of calling the special meeting of the CCPC and sanction the required fund to Consumer Welfare Fund under CPA and donate on behalf of consumers of India. The Secretary -CA has so far not responded. It will be appreciated if the consumers' activist journalists could also support this initiative widely.

    I would also like to share with you my intention of filing a PIL in Delhi High Court/Supreme Court if I could get some legal help from Moneylife Foundation. Thanks, Sucheta Dalal.

    Relaxing lockdown too early can risk resurgence of COVID-19: Nomura
    Relaxing the lockdown too early could risk a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in India and force a need to extend the lockdown again, even as the government has opened up a larger share of the economy to mitigate costs.
     
    A report titled "Tiptoeing around Covid-19 to get back to work" by Nomura said the government has opened up a larger share of the economy to mitigate the lockdown costs. "However, this may risk a resurgence in cases," Nomura said in the report.
     
    India's decision to partially relax the lockdown highlights the growing trade-off faced by developing countries of the economic costs of a lockdown versus health.
     
    The report said that outside of the administrative challenges in dealing with partial relaxations, relaxing the lockdowns too early could risk a resurgence in cases and a need to extend the lockdowns again. 
     
    "Hence, the sustainability of the growth recovery hereon will not only be contingent on how quick the reboot is, but how successfully the epidemic curve flattens," according to the report authored by Sonal Varma and Aurodeep Nandi.
     
    The decision to relax restrictions in rural areas is aimed at maximising activity as the rural areas currently have lower infection cases.
     
    "However, policies will need to be nimble because infection rates could resurge," the report said. 
     
    India is currently nearing 13,000 Covid-19 cases and the top five states with the largest number of cases -- Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan -- account for 63 per cent of the total cases in the country.
     
    The daily new cases have risen at a rate of 10 per cent day-on-day in the past seven-day average, although it has moderated below 10 per cent in the last two days.
     
    "Relaxing the lockdowns too early could risk a resurgence in cases and a need to extend the lockdowns again. Hence, while the economy is being partly opened up, we need to closely monitor how the epidemic curve pans out as that will determine the durability of economic activity," Nomura said.
     
    "We are also concerned how the rollout of a partial lockdown will be implemented, as monitoring of movements of people and industries will require considerable administrative strength. 
     
    "Some of the exempted districts may be producing input goods, while some of those shut down could be consuming finished goods -- so an additional challenge will be the sustainability of the lockdown as pressures emerge on connecting the supply side of the economy to the demand side," the report said.
     
    Nomura estimates suggest that the partial relaxation will open up a larger share of the economy. Compared to the original lockdown, in which only 25 per cent of the economy was operational, these relaxations can result in roughly 45 per cent of the economy resuming business after April 20. 
     
    Estimates assume that the �hotspot' districts, which account for over 37 per cent of the national GDP, will remain under lockdown.
     
    Since India's national lockdown started on March 24 midnight, activity in roughly 75 per cent of the economy has been adversely affected, while essential activities in the remaining roughly 22 per cent of the economy have been operational. The new guidelines will widen the scope of activities that can now operate (after 20 April).
     
    Nomura estimates suggest that compared to 22 per cent of the economy earlier, up to 60 per cent of the economy can now potentially become operational.
     
    Of course, not all districts will be allowed to operate -- only the ones in the green zone and partial operation in districts in the non-hotspots -- while the ones identified as hotspots will remain under strict lockdown.
     
    The choice of sectors is heavily skewed towards the rural economy -- this is because the Covid-19 outbreak so far in India has been largely an urban phenomenon. 
     
    It also allows the government to maintain food production with the Rabi (winter) crop harvest season ongoing, while ensuring employment for a large swathe of daily wage earners.
     
    The report notes that unshackling the rural economy will most likely represent a significant relaxation of the lockdown if the number of non-containment zones is adequately large. 
     
    The other target areas picked are those that are known to be growth and employment multipliers such as IT and ITeS, cargo transportation and manufacturing. 
     
    In the case of manufacturing, while the government has attempted to focus on select industries, granting exemption to all units located in rural areas, along with those in SEZs and industrial parks, may represent a fairly extensive relaxation.
     
    Indirect effects are likely to play out, even after the lockdown ends. Social distancing measures will remain in place to prevent the infection from spreading. The public fear factor itself will lead to consumers avoiding public places. 
     
    The significant hit to corporate profits, especially for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), will lead to a cut in capex plans and jobs -- the latter already visible in data, the report said.
     
    The weak job market and lower salaries will hit discretionary consumption. Roughly 77 per cent of India's workforce is employed in the unorganised sector (either self or casually employed), and represent a majority of the workers across most sectors.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Excellent Opportunity for Law Courts to Reduce Pendency
    Opportunities come along with every threat.   The same holds true for corona virus (COVID-19) because of which time has come to a standstill due to the unavoidable lockdown. 
     
    An office order dated 15 April 2020 announced that the functioning of the High Court of Delhi and all courts subordinate to it shall remain suspended till 3 May 2020. The hearing dates for all matters earlier listed between 16th April and 2 May 2020 have been adjourned en bloc by two months. 
     
    Exceptions have  however been made for taking up urgent matters, especially regarding those involving the right to life and liberty which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
     
    District and sessions judges have been empowered to allow judges and court staff to work from home wherever possible. To decongest the courts, hearings must preferably be done through video conferencing. 
     
    Similarly, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has limited its functioning to hearing only urgent matters and those too through video conferencing.  All cases listed between 15th April and 1st May have been adjourned en bloc by one month.  All officers/officials of the HC will be required to work from home till further orders.
     
    Clearly the schedules of the courts have gone haywire.  As of July 2019, more than 3.5 crore cases were pending across various courts in India. This figure will balloon up further due to the current limited functioning of the courts caused by reasons beyond anyone’s control. Urgent steps are needed to mitigate the hardships being faced by the litigants and ensure that delivery of justice is not delayed.
     
    Simple Initiatives to Reduce Pendency In Courts
     
    The High Court (HC) of Delhi has taken the lead by announcing vide its order dated 13 April  2020 that the HC as well as all courts subordinate to it will function during the month of June 2020 and forego their summer vacations. 
     
    At the time of writing this article, the Supreme Court (SC) was yet to take a similar decision. If the SC and other HCs also decide to work in the month of June 2020, it would immensely help to make up for the lost time.
     
    As stated above, High Courts of Delhi and that of Punjab and Haryana have adjourned cases en bloc by two months and one month respectively. A cursory glance at the website of HC of Delhi reveals that this includes many cases which were already fixed for orders.  Some of these even pertain to fundamental rights of the citizens. 
     
    This approach needs urgent review. To use an old cliché, one size does not fit all. Extraordinary times also call for extraordinary measures.
     
    It is imperative in the interest of justice that orders must be pronounced, even during the lockdown, in cases where final arguments have already been concluded.  Because of the limited functioning of the courts at present, the judges and their staff must make full use of the luxury of extra time at their disposal to finalise and pronounce the orders and bring down the number of pending cases. 
     
    The understanding of the merits of the cases, which are currently fresh in the minds of the judges must not be allowed to be diluted.  This will also obviate the possibility of   transfer of cases from one judge to another in the interim which only results in waste of precious judicial time and public funds.  Pronouncement of the orders during the lockdown will not be prejudicial to interest of either party. 
     
    Besides ensuring timely justice, it will also position the courts to tackle efficiently the surge in fresh cases once the courts resume normal functioning.  
     
    Filling of vacancies in the courts is another step which can be worked upon constructively during the current conundrum. 
     
    Opportunities for All
     
    The opportunities in the current scenario to reduce pendency, increase efficiency and implement the law effectively are not limited to the courts alone. Other agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigations, the Serious Frauds and Investigations Office and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) must also utilize this opportunity to conclude, wherever possible, their investigations in the ongoing cases. 
     
    In my earlier article, I had highlighted how the Wadhawans of the Dewan Housing Finance Ltd (DHFL) had made a mockery of the law by evading  summons from the ED and then travelling from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar even during the lockdown. Although a little late, the ED has now moved the High Court of Mumbai for cancellation of the bail granted to Kapil Wadhawan.
     
    Taking even a few cases to their logical conclusion is the best way to ensure compliance with the law and deter other offenders. 
     
    (Sarvesh Mathur is a senior financial professional, who has earlier worked as CFO of Tata Telecom Ltd and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)
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    COMMENTS

    raviforjustice

    7 months ago

    Thanks to the author for raising this issue ML for publishing it. The more citizens question our courts the better it will be for rule of law.

    Kumar123

    7 months ago

    A little surprised. No offence but a finance professional sharing his advice on reducing pendency in court during lockdown? Suggesting CBI etc to work during lock down? Is it an opinion piece? On what standing.

    REPLY

    raviforjustice

    In Reply to Kumar123 7 months ago

    This is weird logic. Do you need to know how to cook before you can appreciate good food? Or direct a film before criticizing one? In any case, justice and hence the performance of the judiciary affects us all, doesn't it? And last but not the least ignorance of law is not an excuse, except, may be, for the advocates and judges. Or why should there be advocates at all as middlemen between litigants and judges; the litigants should be knowing the facts at least and the judges, the law, for sure.

    Kumar123

    In Reply to raviforjustice 7 months ago

    Sure I can express my view on food, and film as a layman. But does that mean, a popular publication should publish it? We expect credible / expert opinion on the subject - when we read something on a media site. There is a difference between me or you reviewing a film and Rajeev Masand reviewing a film. No offence, but what is there in the article above, apart from generalization. It can come in a self-blog but not here.

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