Pandemic posed challenges, also helped boost health infra: Himanta

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Guwahati, Jul 6 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said that the COVID-19 pandemic posed several challenges but also opened new vistas for improving health facilities in the state.

Inaugurating 200 ICU beds at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital, the chief minister said that the lack of ICU beds was a major problem leading to the loss of lives.

' In the initial stage, we had a maximum of 70 beds but in the last one year, we thought of ways to increase ICU capacity. Our total strength of ICU beds in GMCH and various COVID-19 centres in Kamrup Metro has gone up to 591, including the addition of 200 ICU beds today,' the chief minister said.

The initiative to increase the number of ICU beds had begun since the first wave last year but when the second wave started,'we realised it was not enough.

'When the society is faced with challenges, there is a collective effort to deal with it and I am proud to say that this is a very big accomplishment with the health and PWD departments rising to the occasion to create state-of-the-art facilities,' he said.

The chief minister also handed over appointment letters to some of the 896 staff nurses recruited by the National Health Mission.

'I have inaugurated many projects but the 200 ICU beds and the appointment of so many staff nurses on a single day has given me immense satisfaction and has lifted a huge burden off my shoulders,' Sarma said.

A storage facility of 8,000 litres of liquid medical oxygen at the GMCH was also inaugurated during the day.

'We now have oxygen storage facilities for 10 days and during the second wave, we also supplied oxygen to other states of the North East,' he said.

The chief minister asked Health Minister Keshab Mahanta to set up oxygen concentrator banks in each district in association with NGOs so that post-COVID patients can avail the facility if required.

'We now have a decent stock of 5,000 oxygen concentrators and a bank must be set up in each district within a week so that it can be availed by those who need it,' he added.

Regarding vaccination, Sarma said that so far 75 lakh people have been inoculated in the state.

'Initially, there was a hesitancy against the COVID vaccine but now the weekly quota of vaccine that the state gets, is over in two days,' he said.

However, routine immunisation for children is lagging due to the focus on COVID vaccination, the chief minister said.

'I have directed the health department to concentrate on children's immunisation programme or they will be affected by other diseases,' Sarma said.

He urged the health department to ensure that the newly recruited nurses and doctors are sent for duty in each government facility.

'Our focus should be equally on both COVID and non- COVID patients though the pandemic situation is still a matter of concern. The number of active cases ten days ago was around 2,600 and even today, the figures are almost the same,' he added. PTI DG MM MM

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