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Modi praises Mumbai’s resilience to counter second Covid wave

Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Maharashtra's effort in fighting the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic

In the midst of the difficulties faced by different States and cities in combating Covid-19 pandemic surge, Mumbai is now standing out to counter the highly destructive second Covid wave.

As reported by mid-day.com, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over the Covid-19 related situation and praised the State's efforts to fight coronavirus, informed the State Chief Minister Office (CMO).

CMO’s statement stated that PM during the call enquired about Maharashtra's efforts in the fight against Covid-19 and said that the State was fighting a good battle against the second wave.

Also read: Mumbai fights back to stem the spurt in Covid-19 second surge

With over more than three lakh cases, Mumbai took to planning, efficient implementation, proper feedback mechanism, and thorough information dissemination to mount a riposte against Covid-19. In fact Mumbai’s handling was praised by the Supreme Court, as well as the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court.

Mumbai Model

So what is the Mumbai model that is everybody praising?

According to Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal, “decentralised fight is the key”. Moreover, his core team consists of dedicated persons who are not just accessible but quick in response.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@ANI)

On assuming control of the Corporation, Chahal worked on three aspects of the problem. One was to eliminate the panic; two was to decentralise war rooms to reduce response time; and three build infrastructure required to handle the crisis.

Here’s a look at its salient features.

Covid Test Results: Chahal’s first decision was to disband the central control room and order each Covid testing laboratories that instead of sharing test results directly with patients they should do it with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) only. This reduced panic among people, and also stopped the overwhelming of the helplines which were always flooded with calls for hospital beds.

Setting Up War Rooms: To handle the test results shared with BMC, 24 war rooms were rooms, one for each, was set up. Each war room received the test results of patients in their wards by 6 a.m. Every war room was a control centre equipped with 30 telephone lines; 10 telephone operators, 10 doctors with medical support staff and 10 ambulances.

Working 24 hours, the work of each war room was further bifurcated by creating 10 dashboards with information about availability of beds. Thus Mumbai had a total of 240 decentralised dashboards.

Hub-and-Spoke Operation: Using the time test strategy, BMC head office acted as the hub that received and sorted out nearly 10,000 reports coming in from 55 testing labs every day and transmitted them to 24 wards. Thus the load per ward was reduced to 400 or 40 per dashboard.

With the total focus on positive tested patients who needed hospitalisation, by 8 a.m. each ward-war room would deliver results to people while the doctors and medical staff reached the homes of those tested positive.

Hiring Medical Staff: BMC drafted doctors and support teams required specifically to take care of the war rooms. Thus fresh medical college and nursing school graduates from across the State were brought in with a hefty stipend; hotel accommodation at walking distance within the ward. BMC hired more than 900 doctors and 600 nursing students to accompany the ambulances in each ward.

Requisition Ambulances: More than 800 SUVs were requisitioned and refurbished to separate the driver’s area with a glass partition. Turning them into makeshift ambulances there were enough to bring in patients with mild symptoms to hospital. Uber was asked to provide help in terms of software platform to keep a tab on these vehicles.

Also read: Drive-in vaccination for Covid-19 starts in Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh

Integrating Hospitals: At the very beginning stage of the pandemic, Maharashtra decided to cap Covid-19 treatment prices at all hospitals. A centralised dashboard of 172 hospitals and Coronavirus facilities was created by the BMC. This included many jumbo centres set up in open grounds, Government and private hospitals, including smaller hospitals. Each had been directed to admit patients only through the municipal war rooms.

Every ward team meets patients, examines their condition and, where necessary, calls the dashboard to obtain a bed, as per their condition. It could be an ICU bed or an oxygen bed while the team moved the patient directly to the hospital on confirmation. Those home-quarantined are counselled with regular follow-up by the ward teams. The personal touch paid dividends as now people did not go for ICU beds for patients with mild symptoms which could be taken care of by oxygen beds.

It is significant to note that all those who opted for the BMC facilities have invariably complimented the authorities.

Besides this, BMC allowed patients to walk into any of the seven jumbo centres set up across the city to be tested or admitted directly, without waiting for swab tests and results.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray presenting the Sakal Sanman 2021 to Iqbal Singh Chahal (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@mybmc)

Dashboard For Crematoriums: To avoid chaos at crematoriums, BMC tied up with the Indian Institute of Technology to create an online dashboard of Mumbai’s 47 crematoriums, which allotted cremation slots thus preventing crowding and allowing people to bid their last farewell with dignity and relative privacy.

Ready For Future: The BMC is preparing for a possible third Coronavirus wave around July on a war footing. As of now 5,500 beds including nearly 3,000 oxygen beds are vacant and available, including nearly 2,000 ICU beds with oxygen and ventilators. Four more jumbo centres are being set up which will further enhance patient capacity by 2,000 beds including 200 ICU beds.

A large part of this success can be ascribed to dynamic leadership and teamwork and also to the strong political backing for this strategy.

Hope other States and mega cities draw lessons from Mumbai’s success story!