Manpower crisis cripples fight against COVID

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Is Meghalaya losing the COVID-19 battle? Is the state government prepared enough to tackle further spike in cases?
Looking at the situation in the government-run Shillong Civil Hospital, the answer seems to be a definite “no”.
The government, on its part, attributes the shortcomings to manpower crisis.
People lining up outside the civil hospital to get themselves tested have to wait for hours before their samples are collected. The speed at which the testing is conducted at the hospital narrates a grim tale of the state’s preparedness to tackle COVID-19.
There is no separate arrangement for people coming from containment areas to the hospital for testing, Citizens from both contaminated and non-contaminated zones queue up together putting themselves at risk of contacting COVID-19 in the queue itself.
An elderly woman from Laban, whose house has been put under micro-containment after her brother tested positive, was seen waiting for more than four hours to get herself tested.
The woman revealed that the driver, who had come to pick her up, could not locate her address and she had to come out of her house and search for the driver to reach Civil Hospital for the test.
“I arrived at the Hospital at around 12 noon. But now it is 4 pm and I am still clueless as to when I will be called for the test. I am hungry and exhausted. I am vulnerable since I am diabetic,” the woman said.
Another elderly lady was skeptical about sitting on the chair for the testing and exclaimed that everyone uses the same chair. “What if I contact the virus by sitting on the chair,” she questioned.
“No one knows who would turn out to be positive from amongst us,” the woman said, pointing at the queue.
She suggested that the Health authorities should segregate people coming from containment and non-containment zones and conduct testing in separate areas.
According to her, the Health department should have made special arrangements for people coming from containment areas and also for senior citizens.
She, however, lauded the staff of Civil Hospital for working nonstop inspite of several challenges.
“They are tired and exhausted and donning the PPE for several hours at a stretch is not an easy task. But they are doing their work with great dedication,” the woman said with admiration.
When asked to react to the problems, Health Minister AL Hek acknowledged that there were hiccups due to shortage of manpower.
“The main issue is manpower shortage.
Staff are working for 3-4 days at a stretch and they have to undergo quarantine and are also put on rotational shifts,” Hek said.
When asked if the authorities were aware of the ground situation that high risk and senior citizens were not being segregated, Hek said that it cannot be true since they are segregated once they are brought to the testing centre.
He, however, assured that he will try to rectify the discrepancies so that people coming for testing do not have to undergo additional stress.

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