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Quarantine will Lead to Job Losses

The Battle against Covid-19 or Coronavirus is being fought in every country of this planet. Lockdowns, Shutdowns and Quarantine are the buzz words. People are being made to work from home as prevention and social distancing is the only solution that the mighty countries of the world can offer in the fight against this highly contagious virus. The mortality rate which was hovering around 3% in China has jumped to 10% in Italy. Nobody has any definitive answer as to how long will this virus last and how many people would lose their life due to this infection.

The world economy is already in tatters with the Stock Exchanges taking a battering. Factories, offices, schools, colleges, pubs, restaurants, markets and tourist places are being shut and nobody knows for how long. Some of the countries are looking at the economic cost of this virus both on the employers and the employees and are coming up with bailout packages. Nothing of this sort is happening in our country and the prime minister in his address to the nation also did not offer any concrete package to the affected sections. The maximum impact would be on those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder and starvation deaths cannot be ruled out unless something is done urgently to cushion these vulnerable sections of the society.

Impact on Healthcare

Fears are being expressed that the healthcare system in the country could be overwhelmed with the number of patients who would need to be hospitalized. India currently is not facing such a scenario as only a handful of patients are requiring hospitalization and less than 20 patients are in the ICU requiring ventilator support. If the situation worsens then India would face a shortage of ventilators and other protective material required by the healthcare workers. It is anybody’s guess but according to me India would not be having more than 5000 ventilators across all the hospitals in the country. Since all the countries are grappling with a shortage of ventilators it would not be possible to procure more ventilators at a short notice.

If you look at the hospital OPD’s specially the private ones then most of them wear a deserted look as the quarantined people are scared of going to the hospitals for all other ailments. Planned surgeries are being postponed, international patients are barred from coming to India. This is going to have a massive impact on the bottomlines of most of the tertiary care hospitals specially in the metro towns. So far the private sector has been left out from the testing and treatment of Coronavirus so the burden is mostly on the public hospitals. In any case the doctors required for the treatment of such patients are physicians, pulmonologists and critical care specialists. This leaves the rest of the doctors in the private hospitals sitting idle and nothing much to do.

Can Other Specialists Work from Home

A lot of patients who are scared to come to the hospitals due to the fear of infection should be allowed to take online consultations for their other ailments. The government should come out with clear guidelines in this regard. Pregnant women should be able to consult with their gynaecologist online. Similarly all the other patients of chronic diseases should be allowed to take online consultation with their doctors. This would reduce the workload on the hospitals and we would be able to quarantine lots of other specialist doctors who are going to the hospitals without much of work.

The doctors are mostly very busy and therefore are not able to devote time to the other managerial functions of the healthcare industry. This time of quarantine should be used by the doctors to make protocols, train their staff members and decide on all the pending matters for which they have not been able to spare time earlier.

Economic Support Needed by Healthcare Industry

Every industry in the country needs some kind of bailout package to survive this massive human tragedy. Industries like Aviation and Tourism are going to be the worst hit and need the maximum support. Healthcare would also be hit quite badly due to the postponement of elective surgeries, falling OPD’s and diagnostics. More than 80% of the healthcare workers earn less than Rs. 15000 per month and this is the segment which needs to be protected the most. Hospital promoters would need some kind of support in terms of loan repayment and interest costs. Liquidity at low interest cost has to be infused in the system but more importantly working capital loans should be given to the industry without any collateral to be able to tide over this crisis. This support has to come sooner than later and should be substantial enough to be meaningful.

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