The Telangana government’s decision to set up six new medical colleges and oxygen plants in 48 hospitals is a welcome move against the backdrop of the calls for ramping up the country’s healthcare infrastructure to effectively tackle the kind of pandemic that is currently ravaging the world. The new medical colleges in the public sector and oxygen plants, with a combined capacity of 424 tonnes, will go a long way in improving healthcare delivery in Telangana. The State government has demonstrated its commitment to control the coronavirus pandemic through a plethora of measures, including improving the availability of ICU beds and emergency medical supplies. Apart from new medical colleges, nursing colleges will also come up in various districts. In September last year, there were 18,232 Covid-19 beds in the government and private sector put together. This has been increased to 50,000 beds recently and the number is set to go up to 60,000 beds. During the door-to-door fever survey covering over 60 lakh people, free medical kits were supplied to Covid-19 patients and to those who are in home isolation. Despite a discriminatory response from the Centre regarding supply of oxygen, vaccines and emergency medicines, Telangana has been making concerted efforts to improve the healthcare infrastructure and take care of the Covid-19 patients. The Centre had supplied only 57.3 lakh doses of vaccine to Telangana so far, prompting the government to go for global tenders to procure vaccines and administer them to the people free of cost.
Opting for global tenders is a pragmatic decision, given the fact that the United States is already reporting supply gluts. Unfortunately, the Centre has shied away from its responsibilities and failed to formulate a cohesive national vaccination policy. The States and private hospitals have been left to fend for themselves, hindering the pace of inoculation. The Centre’s vaccination policy has been flawed from the beginning in terms of distribution and pricing. No wonder that it received all-round flak for allowing differential pricing of the vaccines. Despite these adversities, Telangana’s Covid-19 management has been commendable. The State’s average weekly positivity rate — proportion of samples tested that return positive for Covid-19 — now stands at 7% as compared with the national average of 17.6%. As a rule of thumb, tracking a region’s positivity rate serves as a good barometer for whether cases will increase or decrease in the coming days: a rising positivity rate generally means cases will rise in the immediate future, while a dropping positivity rate tends to precede a drop in new infections. Even in the midst of the debilitating impact of the pandemic, restricting the revenue flow, Telangana continues to accord top priority for the welfare of the poor and development projects.