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Is this what Kerala calls care?
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The most number of Covid cases across the country currently are reported from Kerala. Of the 36,041 cases reported countrywide yesterday, 21,427 are from the state. The number of Covid positive patients has been rising for a month now. In mid-July, the number of Covid cases was around 15,000. Now it is over 21,000. While the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) across the country is 1.96, in Kerala it is 15.5. With 179 new Covid deaths recorded, the total number of fatalities due to Covid-19 in the state has crossed 19,000. 1,77, 683 are under treatment at homes or hospitals. About 5 lakhs are under quarantine, suspecting infection. Daily figures released by the government show that Covid is not under control in the state. The reasons why the number of patients did not decrease even after 52% received the first dose of the vaccine require serious study and rethinking of the state's immunization modalities.

The Government of Kerala has decided to charge a fee from those above poverty line (APL) for treatment in government hospitals at this critical juncture in the face of growing concerns in the community that the number of patients will increase significantly after the Onam rush and the state will have to go back to strict control. The Principal Secretary, Department of Health has issued an order that post-Covid treatment in government hospitals will be free only for those registered under the Karunya Health Insurance Scheme (KASP) and BPL sections, even as the government itself is widely publicising its own act of providing free treatment as sign of its care for Covid patients. From now on, those admitted to government hospitals for post-Covid treatment will have to pay Rs 750 per day in the general ward, Rs 1,250 in the HDU, Rs 1,500 in the ICCU and Rs 2000 in the ventilator ICU. Surgery costs range between Rs 4,800 and Rs 27,500 for different categories. Covid treatment rates in private hospitals have also been standardized by the order of the Health Secretary whereby private players can charge 2,645-2,910 for admission to wards and 7,800-8,580 for admission to ICUs. They can charge between 13,800-15,180 for ventilators.

Unlike the first stage of Covid, the second wave has more complex morbidities and a higher infection rate. Following the assessment of experts that post-Covid ailments will be a major challenge the state will face in the future, the government had taken a decision to treat post-Covid conditions on a par with Covid care, including using referral special facility, but the Health Secretary's latest order is at variance with this decision. The government had earlier announced that it would set up specialized facilities for Covid treatment at all levels, including primary health centres, family health centres, community health centres, taluk hospitals, district hospitals, general hospitals and medical colleges. The Chief Minister needs to clarify whether the Cabinet has approved the government's stand as basis to back away from this promise made to the people.

Out of 90.67 lakh households in the state, 51.77 lakh are in APL category. Having to pay for Covid treatment, which spans across days, even at government hospitals at the mentioned rates, makes life harder for the general public. The order, which adversely affects the health of the general public, is also a departure from the decades-old policy of free treatment at government hospitals. In government hospitals, where all treatment was free, so far only pay ward was chargeable. The new order will also create a situation in the future where people seeking treatment in government hospitals for diseases other than Covid will have to pay. The government should be prepared to continue the facilities for free treatment of Covid in both government and private hospitals. Or, if this fundamental change in state health policy is a political decision of the Left, then this government will have to say it loud and clear that in these times of distress it is firmly embracing capitalist values, not the suffering people.

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TAGS:Covid-19 Kerala's rise in cases hgh TPR charging post-Covid treatment 
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