DU loses its academic talents to Covid. University must rope at Patel Chest Institute
Aaround 30 academics, a large number of non-teaching staff and hundreds of family members of University of Delhi employees lost their lives fighting the deadly second wave of Covid. And while many struggle to find a hospital bed, a prestigious national institute of respiratory disease – the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute or VPCI, housed on the university campus – remains intact. Equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, most of its 100 oxygen beds remain unoccupied.
As government and non-government agencies work tirelessly to make makeshift arrangements – in tents, banquet halls, hotels, or wherever they can – the authorities, neither at the university nor the Department of Health , seem to have the foresight or the will to do so. press VPCI in Covid-duty.
As the pandemic overwhelmed our health infrastructure, the response from the University of Delhi, which is proud to manage not only the VPCI, but also two medical schools and a nursing school, has been baffling. How else to explain the proliferation of makeshift arrangements by RWAs, religious institutions and NGOs on the one hand and the exclusion of permanent, efficient and stable institutions such as the VPCI on the other.
A communication published by the VPCI explaining its inability to enter the Covid service accepts that the institute has an oxygen plant, although of limited capacity, and 22 doctors out of a sanctioned workforce of 32, around 11 nurses , three room boys and three occupational therapists / ICU technicians. Significantly, the institute accepts that the available oxygen facility is directly connected to the ICU and non-ICU beds.
The institute’s reasoning for not being involved in Covid tasks, however, is puzzling – the VPCI alludes to its one-building structure with a single exit / entry door. Ironically, however, the VPCI claims credit for performing x-rays, blood tests, and even administering oxygen to infected patients in isolation in Emergency Zone 2.
If the IPV has two emergency zones, there is no reason why the institute cannot make arrangements to separate infected patients from those who are not. A number of small nursing homes and hospitals serving Covid patients are single-building structures with shared entry / exit facilities. And finally, having lived in college for over three decades, I can genuinely say that the VPCI has three entry / exit gates, not one as it is claimed.
Also read: WBU panic as 18 professors die from Covid in 20 days, VC wants campus samples surveyed
The duty of the AU
When universities around the world have prepared in every way to counter the pandemic – from medical research to the provision of instruments, equipment, as well as personnel to the local and regional pool of physicians – being a premier university plan in India, the Delhi University must also make a concerted effort to rise to the occasion. Here are five things the university should do.
First, the administration must immediately set up a rapid response team made up of senior academic officials and senior experts from all of its medical and nursing schools. This is necessary to take stock of the many fragmented and disjointed efforts made by some of its colleges. This would allow the university to better assess the structural strengths and weaknesses inherent in ongoing efforts. The authorities can then increase their capacities. The establishment of a unified chain of command with access to a credible real-time information-communication system is also necessary to break down silos in decision-making.
Second, the university’s two spacious guest rooms should be used to accommodate patients. As the two guest houses are located a few meters from the VPCI campus, the establishment’s doctors and paramedics could be entrusted with the care of people admitted to these establishments. Severe cases could be transferred to the VPCI. If there are additional requirements, college hostel blocks that exist as separate units can also be used.
Third, the university should immediately set up a centralized logistics center and place all of its transport facilities under its command. This center could serve as a depot for the collection and distribution of essential drugs and oxygen cylinders for isolated patients at home. Doctors and other medical staff from a centralized pool could be attached here to oversee operations.
Fourth, attempts should be made to transform the World University Service Health Centers east, west, north and south of Delhi into full-fledged vaccination centers. They should be assigned a group of colleges where staff members and their dependents can get vaccinated.
Last but not least, the administration must immediately contact the families of the deceased university staff. The university should immediately release interim grants and begin the process of awarding compensatory jobs as soon as possible. It would be good to reach out to the large number of ad hoc and guest professors, allay their insecurities and advise stress.
Dr Chandrachur Singh @Chandrachursing, is Associate Professor of Political Science at Hindu College, University of Delhi and Visiting Professor at Kautilya School of Public Policy, Hyderabad. Opinions are personal.
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