Pandemic in Mind, Bengal to Increase Bed Strength in Govt Hospitals ahead of Durga Puja
File photo of a health worker taking the temperature of a patient at a makeshift COVID-19 care center. (AP)
Apprehending a surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks in view of Durga Puja festival, the West Bengal cabinet on Monday decided to increase the bed strength in government hospitals by 50 per cent and bring down the charge for coronavirus tests in private health establishments. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has cautioned the people about the possible surge of COVID-19 and asked them to adhere strictly to the health protocol.
The cabinet asked the West Bengal Clinical Regulatory Commission to cut down on ambulance charges, state Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopdhyay said. The cabinet gave its nod to keep single-chamber doctors out of certain provisions of West bengal Clinical Establishment Act so that they can treat patients coming to them freely.
"Keeping in mind the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government has decided to increase its dedicated, free government ICU and HDG beds by 600 before Durga Puja. We have decided to bring down on the charge for COVID-19 tests by private esatblishments from Rs 2,250 to Rs 1,500. This is a gift from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in this Durga Puja festival," Bandyopadhyay told reporters. The five-day festival will begin from October 22.
Currently, there are 1,247 dedicated COVID-19 beds in state-run hospitals and after the enhancement, there will be over 1,800 beds to treat patients afflicted by the disease, Bandyopadhyay said. The chief secretary said that 48 beds have already been added to the ESI hospital at Baltikuri and another 56 will be added to the Bangur Hospital in the city.
"Another 496 beds will be added to other hospitals in the next two to three weeks," he added. To increase the NUMBER of care givers in government hospitals in the pandemic scenario, 2,475 nurses will be soon employed in different government hospitals in the state.
"The state government has been offering free ambulance services to people. For those who avail the service offered by private hospitals, the ambulance fare should be brought down during the festival period. We are requesting the West Bengal Clinical Regulatory Commission look into it to bring down the rate to an acceptable level," he said. The state government has also decided to cancel the offs of all those employed in emergency services like health and disaster management during Durga Puja days, the chief secretary said.
"They (the staff) will get compensatory leaves. An order will be issued soon. The control room at the state secretariat will be open 24X7 during Durga Puja days to keep an eye on any form of law and order, Covid-19 management issues and disaster management," Bandyopadhyay said. The chief minister cautioning the people said, "COVID-19 has spread to the community level. People may admit it or not but the disease is air borne. It has spread after trucks and special trains carrying goods and people started coming in to the state.
"I ask everybody to follow the pandemic health protocol – wear masks and sanitise properly while pandal hopping," Banerjee said adding that only the West Bengal government is allowing Durga Puja to be held and no other state. "I have heard that in Delhi only one Durga Puja has been permitted. In Uttar Pradesh, the government has not given permission to a single one. It is the same in the rest of the country.
"Here we have not done so. But we should be careful that the virus does not spread," she added.