[ Nellie N Manpoong ]
There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth…
– Robert Evans.
The health department has come a long way since the first Covid-19 positive case was detected in the state on 2 April. It is now actively tracing positive cases and potential carriers of the virus to contain the chain of transmission.
While some are eager to get tested, several of us are terrified of getting tested because of the supposed “poor conditions” of the Covid care centre (CCC). Earlier, people had complained of the poor living conditions at the PTC Banderdewa quarantine centre, and after its closure, the focus has shifted to the state quarantine centre in Lekhi, which is also the CCC for asymptomatic Covid-19 positive patients.
It should be noted that the CCC serves as a way to break the chain of transmission by putting asymptomatic Covid-19 positive people, or those with mild symptoms, in quarantine. Those who are symptomatic and have poor health conditions are shifted to the Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Sciences for better care.
In the meantime, some people claiming to be from the CCC reached out to vloggers on social media and highlighted that they were not being provided with medicines for their mild flu symptoms. They also complained about the quality of food, and alleged rude behaviour by doctors.
However, they soon went on to admit that the doctors and other healthcare workers are under pressure, the food and living conditions are considerably better, and medicines are being provided.
Nevertheless, they maintained that those responsible for informing positive patients about their Covid-19 status should be more considerate while passing on the information, and that patients should be given an explanation as to how things move ahead from there.
It sounds like a reasonable enough demand, and the health department should consider applying a more humane touch to informing positive people in order to gain their confidence and help them help others.
In order to make a small comparison between the CCC here and those in Assam, this reporter found a news report of a meeting held on 2 July by the Assam government regarding several Covid-19-related issues, including ‘patient experience in a CCC’.
As per the decision taken in that meeting in Assam, every patient has to be provided with a welcome kit consisting of essential items of personal use, such as a bucket, a mug, briefs, vest, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, pen and paper, etc, besides Wi-Fi connectivity, fresh bed sheet and pillow cover, a radio, electric kettle and water, along with tea bags, sugar, disposable cups, magazines and newspapers, as per the preference of patients.
Other facilities include ensuring that the quantity of food is increased as per the patient’s requirement; recreational activities while ensuring social distancing; patients/attendants to be encouraged to arrange for at least one home-cooked meal a day; and to have one patient in a ward monitor and convey issues or suggestions of patients to the central administration on rotational basis.
On enquiry, it was learnt that the CCC here in Lekhi does provide a kit with essential toiletry items, Wi-Fi, fresh sheets, pillow covers, electric kettle and water with tea bags and sugar. The quantity of food required is ensured and there is a provision to get home-cooked meals.
However, these provisions come with variations and conditions.
“It would be difficult to compare on a one-on-one basis because of different setups and different conditions. For instance, Assam, from what I am aware of, has stadiums converted into quarantine centres, so indoor recreation facilities can easily be made available there, while in our case it’s a housing complex, so it would be difficult unless we go for outdoor games and likewise,” an official said.
However, another official contradicted the claim of availability of proper Wi-Fi facility in the area and said that proper internet connectivity would help keep the inmates engaged as there is no other form of recreational activity.
Lack of certain amenities and services was not limited to patients but to the officials on duty, as well.
The CCC has a total of 640 rooms, but several of them require maintenance and rooms available for occupancy are considerably low. Till Saturday, about 171 rooms were occupied.
There is also a provision for families that test positive to share the same space.
Sweepers are also reportedly reluctant to work at the CCC as it hosts only positive patients. But the officials have managed one with much difficulty. We can only imagine the plight of that one sweeper working in over 150 rooms.
As per sources, some officials are also helping with the housekeeping and sweeping the floors of the rooms.
It has also been reported that essential items such as electric kettles, buckets, mugs and bed sheets are being “picked up” by inmates who are released after recovery.
An official there said: “Since it is not a normal situation, frisking every inmate during discharge is difficult. We are trying our best and retrieving back from them when found.”
It should be noted that there are instructions that no one other than inmates and people on duty are allowed to enter the CCC, and since a large bulk of journalists have tested negative in rapid antigen and ELISA tests, it is difficult for them to visit the CCC merely for the sake of breaking news.
Is it then right on the part of social media vloggers to make public unverified claims and information which have the potential to either sow the seed of fear into our minds or create lawlessness regarding Covid-19 rules and regulations. Should one’s displeasure with a certain aspect of the CCC be considered the only reason to avoid getting tested or publicly disregard the efforts of the officials engaged at the CCCs or out on the field, tracing potential carriers of the virus?
Should not the health department consider taking the views and opinions of its inmates and officials to ensure that they have a decent experience, if not a luxurious one, at a time when they are being ostracized by others for carrying the virus or simply working to contain its spread? The state may not be able to provide what the CCCs in Assam or New Delhi provide, but we can learn from them and come close.
We could put the inmates and officials in one room and have a debate all day on who is at fault, but difficult times do not require finger-pointing; they require better communication.
To end Robert Evans’s quote: …And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.