After Covid2.0 fiasco, Goa readies to protect kids from 3rd wave (IANS Special)

Panaji, June 5 (IANS) Criticised for its poor preparation and handling of the second wave, the Pramod Sawant government in Goa appears to have stormed off the blocks quickly to gear up for the impending next wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which according to experts is expected to impact children.

Nearly 100 persons died due to lack of oxygen at the state’s apex health institute, the Goa Medical College at the peak of the second wave, a tragedy which had put a question mark over the handling of the second wave by Health Minister Vishwajit Rane.

In a bid to prep for the third wave, Sawant appears to have kept the reins of the health administration in his hands, as the chairperson of the newly founded Special Task Force, which he has formed to handle the impending crisis.

The force has already started tracking down the over 120 paediatricians in the state, who will be imparted key skills, like ventilator training from next week.

According to Sawant, nurses will also be trained to handle Covid emergencies related to children ahead of during the third wave.

“There are around 120 paediatricians in Goa. Apart from the seniormost paediatricians, we will be training the rest of them in ventilator operations. Nurses will also be trained,” according to Sawant.

The training programme for doctors and nurses is expected to begin from June 7.

Apart from the fatal oxygen crisis, shortage of trained manpower, as well as shortcomings in the existing health infrastructure, were some of the key elements, which led to the criticism of the state government during the second wave, where the state witnessed nearly 3,000 new infections a day.

Videos of overflowing hospitals, where patients were relegated to sleeping on folded cardboard boxes, also went viral, which led to condemnation of the functioning of the Health Ministry.

The failure of the Goa government to impose restrictions on the entry of visitors to the state, especially from Maharashtra and Karnataka, which also reported a sizeable number of infections in a short span of time had also led to the unprecedented spurt in cases in the coastal state.

However, lessons appear to have been learnt — at least for now — by the Sawant-led administration, with the special task force already in the process of rectifying the lacunae which cropped up during the second wave.

A member of the force told IANS that a special SOP was being devised by the Goa government, specially dealing with overall Covid treatment to children.

“The SOP will be comprehensive. It will not just deal with treatment protocol, but also cover the aspect of counselling of children, who are impacted by Covid,” the member said on condition of anonymity.

The member also said that counsellors, both from the private and public sector, too would specifically assist children who suffer from Covid. “Counselling is critical for children, especially in a health crisis like this. A special module is being created,” he said.

The state government has already started an outreach programme for vaccination of parents, who have children below the age of 10 years, in a bid to stem the severity of infection spread in children ahead of the third wave.

The Goa government is also in the process of ramping up the infrastructure for critical care of paediatric patients, which includes setting up of a 60-bedded paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

“PICU beds will be increased from eight to 14 in the existing PICU in GMC and a new 60 bedded PICU — 30 bedded each, in the super speciality block. We have also taken a decision that at any time 20 beds in an existing ICU, can be converted into a paediatric ICU,” according to Sawant, whose task force is overseeing the infrastructure creation process.

A neonatal intensive care unit is also being created, he said. Most of the paediatric facilities, Sawant said would be set-up in the newly created superciality wing of the Goa Medical College.

“Emergency facilities for children will also be set up in the South Goa and North Goa district hospitals,” he said.

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