By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, July 27, 2020: The Odisha government is redesigning strategy to tackle the growing COVID-19 cases in the state as the current lockdown ends on July 31.

With more than half of sanctioned doctor posts lying vacant in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities face huge tasks to provide health care particularly in remote areas.

Chief secretary Asit Tripathy on Monday advised district collectors and chief medical officers over a video conference to analyze the evolving situation following the outbreak of COVID-19 and accordingly plan to manage the crisis. He also directed them to make advance arrangements to step up surveillance, quantum of testing, availability of covid care centers, covid health facilities, medicines, test kits etc keeping in mind the prospective scenario till end of August.

The state has sufficient stock of testing kits and medicines. “Around 1,16,000 antigen test kits have already been supplied to the districts. Each district will be supplied as per their demand,” additional chief secretary health and family welfare, Pradipta Mohapatra informed the conference.

He also said the plasma banks would be made functional in five places – Capital Hospital, Bhubaneswar, SCB Medical Cuttack, IGH Rourkela, VIMSAR Burla and MKCG Berhampur. The logistics and vehicles being used for blood bank would be utilized for plasma banks also.

Officials also decided to provide travel assistance, accommodation and food to the donors wherever required. The Collectors were advised to encourage and support plasma collection in all possible ways. Collectors were directed to make fix the place of their stay and make all logistic arrangements for smooth collection of the plasma.

The chief secretary asked the Collectors to step up per day sample collection at least to 500. The hot spot districts were asked to scale up the sample collection up to 1000 per day for early detection and treatment. He advised them to utilize the antigen test kits and upload the test results in ICMR portal on daily basis.

But the dearth of doctors in rural areas could mar the attempts by the authorities to properly handle the pandemic. Tribal-dominated districts are the worst affected. The State has 8,719 sanctioned posts, filled by regular, ad hoc and contractual doctors. However, 4,493 doctor posts are lying vacant, accounting for 51.53%, according to information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by activist Pradip Pradhan.

The government was also forced to increase the retirement age of doctors from 62 to 65, which was seen as a desperate attempt to retain doctors.

Recently, the government had to shift more than 100 doctors from southern and western Odisha districts to Ganjam to tackle the pandemic.

Faced with huge doctor vacancies and weak infrastructure in the government health system, the Naveen Patnaik government had to initially rope in private players to set up COVID hospitals to deal with exigencies.

Up to midnight of 26th July, 4,67,447 samples have been tested while the number of Positive Cases went up to 26,892. The tally of death due to the deadly virus has shot up to 147 while 17,373 persons have already been discharged after their recovery.

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