Lack of a round-the-clock health centre or a pharmacy makes healthcare relatively inaccessible for IGNOU campus residents in the pandemic.
Delhi– The residents of Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) need more accessible healthcare facilities close to home, as the capital deals with rising cases of Covid-19.
A resident in IGNOU, Ghazala Parveen, said, “The healthcare centre should be accessible for 24 hours or at least 12 hours. It is a basic need. My son fell from his cycle and got wounded in the evening around 7.30 pm. We had to take him to Max Hospital because the hospitals nearby said they could not provide anaesthesia. Max Hospital is five km away from the IGNOU campus. “With the evening traffic, it can take around 30-35 minutes to reach the Hospital which could waste critical time,” she added.
Another resident, Jatinderjit Kaur, said that the health centres should at least be open throughout the day or at least during office hours (9 am to 5 pm). She said that while the basic facilities are available, they should take more care in the segregation of the bio-medical waste like syringes and swabs, especially during the pandemic.
Currently, the IGNOU healthcare centre is open for two hours in the morning (8.30 to 10.30 am) and two hours in the evening (03:30 to 5: 30 pm). In the morning shift, Dr Manmohan Kaur visits the centre for two hours along with one nurse and one attendant. However, since the lockdown, no doctors have been available for the evening shift. Only the nurse and the attendant are available in the evenings.
Praveen also said that the evening timings are not convenient, especially for employees who have small children She added that the centre should have a paediatrician because there are a lot of children living in the University. She said that doctors could be hired on a contractual basis to ensure availability of more doctors in rotation. There should at least be one male and one female doctor.
Dr. Manmohan Kaur said that 24X7 services would not be feasible as the number of people residing inside the campus is not very large. She added that if they do have round-the-clock services, then they would need more staff and equipment, which would be harder to maintain. In total, there are 342 residential units in the main IGNOU campus for its employees. This implies that at least 700 residents are living inside the campus, excluding other employees who live outside the campus and will be eligible to access the services of the health centre.
The University also does not have provisions for an on-site pharmacy. Dr. Kaur said, “Dispensing medicine that the doctors prescribe here will be beneficial to the residents and reduce costs for the University.”Head of the Residents’ Welfare Association said that the pharmacy option on-campus is not viable as many people already shop from outside pharmacies and might not switch even when the facility is provided. The centre provides medicines if there is an emergency.
Some of the residents said that all staff in IGNOU would not be able to afford private hospitals like Max Hospital, even if the office reimburses the money later. Vikram Mandal, another resident, said that 24-hour healthcare should be accessible for all. His daughter was sick on a rainy day once, and they had to struggle to get the medicines from outside the campus. Another issue is that buses have stopped functioning ever since the lockdown.
Dr. Tapan Kumar Jena, M.D in Preventive and Social Medicine and Director of School of Health Sciences (SOHS), IGNOU said that the University was not prepared to tackle the lockdown. He said, “The campus administration should establish a planning committee that could assign dedicated provisions in case of an emergency like the one we are facing.” A separate set of guidelines could then help the institution to set up emergency health services during the crisis, he added.
On November 9 2020, the IGNOU Teachers Association (T) sent a mail to the Registrar, demanding 24×7 medical services, an ambulance and pharmacy provisions. They have also demanded Covid-19 testing facilities inside the campus. A member of the Association said that the health centre is located inside an occupied residential building which increases the risk of exposure for people who live around the health centre. The doctor at the clinic said that around 30-35 patients visit the centre every week.
In July 2020, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare issued guidelines for gated residential complexes that would like to set up small Covid care facilities with the help of Residential Welfare Associations or NGOs. The guidelines mention that the facility should be isolated from the rest of the occupied dwelling.