Replicate Mumbai’s ward level Covid war rooms that link patients with medical assistance

The most heartbreaking aspect of the second wave is the manner in which many governments have left patients and their families to fend for themselves. For most patients trying to secure testing, hospital admissions, oxygen cylinders and ambulance services, the state was nowhere in the picture. However, Mumbai appears to have learnt key lessons from the first wave unlike the rest of the state, setting up 24 ward level Covid war rooms to interface between patients and their Covid healthcare needs.

These BMC war rooms manned by schoolteachers and data entry operators collect daily RT-PCR test positivity records, then contact positive persons, and ascertain their symptoms, comorbidities, oxygen requirement and other details including tenement size. Doctors at the war room then make decisions whether to dispatch ambulances for hospitalisation or advise home care. This system called triaging, that categorises patients based on disease severity and prognosis, is also reportedly working well in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Mumbai war rooms also field calls from patients self-reporting suspicious symptoms and coordinate with ground staff conducting tracing and monitoring of vitals like oxygen saturation and temperature, especially those without thermometers and oximeters at home.

Every state and city swamped by the second wave urgently needs such a system. Rather than a centralised war room, Mumbai’s model of locating these at the ward level will ensure quicker response, localised decision-making and faster ascertainment of hospital bed positions, ambulance availability and monitoring field workers. Of course, even good triaging systems will struggle if severe patient numbers surpass hospital capacity. But fear of failure is no excuse for not trying. Arguably, BMC, India’s richest civic body, has the financial resources for such responses. Effective decentralised action is possible only by empowering local bodies. Replicate the Mumbai war rooms nationally, locally.


This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.


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