Health

Odisha’s Nuapada a snapshot of how COVID-19 is affecting rural India

Nuapada distrct experiences lack of oxygen, callous staff, a swelling number of infection cases and deaths and an administration in denial as COVID-19 wreaks havoc  

 
By Ajit Panda
Published: Monday 26 April 2021
Odisha’s Nuapada a snapshot of how COVID-19 is affecting rural India
A person being tested for COVID-19 at the Khariar Road Railway Station in Odisha's Nuapada district. Photo: Twitter Handle of the Collector and District Magistrate of Nuapada A person being tested for COVID-19 at the Khariar Road Railway Station in Odisha's Nuapada district. Photo: Twitter Handle of the Collector and District Magistrate of Nuapada

The worst fears of experts regarding rural India during the first wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) last year are coming true. Nuapada, a district of Odisha bordering Chhattisgarh, offers a snapshot of the havoc that the pandemic is wreaking, now that it has reached these areas.

Lack of oxygen, callous staff, the swelling number of infection cases and deaths and an administration in denial is there for all to see in the western Odisha district.

Take the example of shortage of oxygen. Duryodhan Majhi, a member of the Silva Gram Panchayat, died of COVID-19 April 24, 2021. His brother Sadhuram alleged that Duryodhan had died due to medical negligence:

He was on oxygen since April 16. When supply exhausted at about 2 am April 24, I approached the hospital staff. They said it would be available in the morning. As my brother’s condition deteriorated, I approached emergency staff again at 5 am. But I was told oxygen was not available. My brother died subsequently.

Dolley Hota sent a letter to the chief district medical officer (CDMO) of Nuapada after her father Janmejaya Joshi died at the Covid hospital at Nuapada town April 24. She claims her father died due to oxygen shortage.

Janmejaya’s wife requested staff to change the exhausted cylinder at about 12 midnight April 23 to no effect. “When my mother repeatedly asked them to provide oxygen, the staff became irritated and scolded her,” Dolley told this reporter.

The family’s relatives in Khariar town, also in Nuapada, rushed to the hospital with three cylinders but it was too late.

“The situation in the Covid hospital at Nuapada was very good during the first wave of the pandemic. There was hardly any complaint about treatment and care. But the situation now is very very bad,” a local journalist whose wife died of COVID-19 in the hospital a week ago, said.

“There are no timely visits by staff. Patients have to run to the emergency section frequently to complain of their problems,” he added.

The CDMO, Nuapada, however said there was no question of an oxygen shortage or any other negligence. Kali Prasad Behera said the hospital was getting 250 cylinders every day.

The hospital is located at Sildha village in the Nuapada block and has a bed strength of 140. With five ICUs and five ventilators, the hospital accommodated about 160 affected persons a week ago.

This reduced after the Covid Care Center at Khariar became operative.

The Covid Care Center at Khariar, with 100 beds, 16 oxygen cylinders and 40 concentrators, has forty patients at present. “We have been assured by the district collector that the number of oxygen cylinders would be increased.

We need them as the number of affected persons is increasing,” Tanmaya Hota, in charge of the Covid Care Centre, said.

Swelling numbers

The number of daily new COVID-19 positive cases in the district as well as the percentage has not shown any decline in the last few days.

The total number of positive cases from March 1 till April 25 was 5,399, which was 10.16 per cent of the total people tested. The number of people found positive in the district April 25 was 300, which was about 30 per cent of the total 1,003 people tested.

Deaths due to COVID-19 in Nuapada have also significantly increased in April, at an average of five deaths daily in the last three weeks. The total deaths due to COVID-19 in Nuapada district till April 26 is 68.

The administration has decided to open another 100-bed Covid Care Center at Sinapali. “It will be operational with 22 dedicated staff from April 27,” Sada Naik, block development officer (BDO) of Sinapali, said.

Most people in the villages of the district are still shying away from COVID-19 testing. Radheshyam Behera of Sargimunda village said most people in his village had COVID-19 symptoms. Hence, he requested the CDMO, Nuapada, to depute a team to conduct antigen tests in the village.

“But when a testing team reached the village the next day, only three families volunteered for testing and six out of twenty persons were found to be COVID-19 positive,” Radheshyam said.

For most people in the villages, COVID-19 still carries stigma, that leads to restrictions on the use of village commons especially water sources.

Sadananda Naik, BDO, Boden, said:

Except some remotely located villages, the situation all over the district is same. Most affected villages are those located nearer to the Chhattisgarh border and nearer to urban areas in the district. The Kendumunda, Godal, Sinapali and Gandabaheli panchayats of Sinapali block are more affected.

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