It was a challenge before a young municipal corporation that was formed hardly four years ago to fight against COVID pandemic. Without health infrastructure and limited funds available, the Panvel Municipal Corporation (PMC) has written a success story. While many cities with good infrastructure are struggling to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the PMC has commendable 94% recovery rate with hardly 4 per cent active cases left. The civic administration with the cooperation of local public representatives created health infrastructure and managed CSR funds to continue its fight against COVID-19.
Here is an excerpt of an interview with Sudhakar Deshmukh, the municipal commissioner of PMC.
Q: What is the COVID-19 status in PMC?
A: The situation is under control and the spread of virus within the city can be handled with available infrastructure. The number of new cases has also dropped to 50 to 70 from as high as 300 to 350 cases per day. The number of active cases is just 885.
Q: How was it difficult for a new municipal corporation to handle the COVID pandemic?
A: It was a big challenge for PMC as it came into existence just four years ago. The civic body did not have own hospital or even own medical officer or medical staff. The responsibility of COVID management was given to medical officer of Panvel Taluka who unfortunately got infected with the virus in the beginning. We had to rely on contract and health mission staff. The civic body has only six health posts. However, with 8.5 lakh population, at least 12 to 15 health posts are required. There is only one government hospital under PMC and there was huge load of patients there.
Q: What major problem did the civic body come across while managing COVID-19 in the city?
A: We had a major problem of testing. Since the civic body does not have own labs, it has to rely on private labs or adjoining civic body. Metropolis provided 10,000 free testing through CSR which was a major support for the civic body. Later, we got support from Tata Cancer hospital, JJ Hospital and the NMMC.
Q: Where did the civic body go wrong while handling the inflated medical bills issues?
A: Since there is a restriction from the High Court from taking any coercive action against private hospitals, the audit team of civic body could not conduct audit and take action. There are 25 private hospitals on board for treatment of COVID-19. However, a few of them could not support the civic administration. However, many of the hospitals later reduced the medical bills.
Q: After Ganpati festival, there was a spike in positive cases. What is the arrangement for Diwali?
A: State government’s “My Family My Responsibility” campaign helped in tracing infected persons. The campaign also created a lot of awareness among citizens. Panvel has educated population and as the civic body we could have controlled the COVID pandemic because of support from citizens. Under the “Mission Begin Again”, a lot of services already started. We expect that the citizens will continue to follow the COVID norms. As the restriction cannot be continued for long time as it affects the economy, everyone needs to take care of themselves and their families.