Friends, we all know that the healthcare system in India is already under resourced, whether in terms of staff, budget, laboratories, ambulances etc. With the Covid-19 crisis, the healthcare system will be put under immense additional pressure.
We are healthcare workers and public health activists who strongly feel that this crisis is a time for all Indians, irrespective of gender, caste, religion, class, sexual orientation, ability etc. to come together, extend support, help and empathise with each other, even as we urge the government to strengthen health systems.
Community participation is key in controlling the spread of a pandemic and an important measure to keep our vulnerable communities safe.
We feel that the ministers, MLAs, corporators, MPs, religious leaders, police and media have a crucial role to play in the following.
- Being role models in following safe distance protocols– It is of great concern when the people who should be role models in society themselves organize parties, religious events, celebrations and public gatherings inspite of this becoming an easy route to aggravate the pandemic
- Non discriminatory behavior – Overty communalising the pandemic using abusive, communal slurs, calling for economic and social boycotts, hate speech, misrepresentation and stigmatization is shocking. It is of deep concern that even volunteers distributing food to poor patients in hospitals have been targeted leading to distress for patients and their families. There is also covert targeting, such as denial of rations, healthcare etc. This is of deep concern to us and we condemn it in the strongest way. There have been several public events which could have created a cluster of positive cases. There is no rational basis for states or the centre to put out data specifically highlighting one event or giving a religious angle. This only serves to aggravate the already volatile communal situation in the country and doesn’t add to our epidemiologic understanding or planning in any significant way. Even if does, this need only be available to those planning interventions. It need not be flashed everyday by media as a form of public discrimination. This communalization of the pandemic, particularly targeting Muslims will prevent us from using this opportunity to identify gaps in our public health system and put pressure on the government to plug these gaps so that we are much more prepared for any future outbreak. Blaming one community while not holding the government accountable serves no purpose.
- Physical distancing with social consciousness – In India, discrimination is already present in several spheres. We are extremely concerned about reports of ‘Social distancing’ being used to legitimise caste based discrimination by denying rations and other essentials.
- Strengthening public healthcare – We request all Indians, both in India and abroad to highlight the lack of PPE for the staff, the need for decentralized public health care, availability of affordable lab services across the country, especially in remote and inaccessible areas – overall a comprehensive, affordable and accessible healthcare for all our people. We are also particularly concerned that super-specialty government hospitals are being converted to Covid hospitals and leading to distress of many other patients such as those with tuberculosis, HIV, cancer, non communicable diseases, as well as emergencies. Planning for Covid should not be at the cost of other patients.
- Demand better food security – With relief work being less than satisfactory, large scale distress of the poor across the country should be the concern of everyone of us. With already poor state of nutrition and high rates of non communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease etc. this lockdown will cause even further health issues.
- Essential public transport – The lockdown has to be implemented with the least inconvenience to people. We are particularly concerned about those in remote areas who may not be able to access healthcare in the absence of public transport. We, the undersigned, request the government to identify a broad based group of public health experts with wide representation from all other sectors, particularly marginalized communities, to plan for the pandemic in a scientific manner. We also request Indians to use their platforms to demand better healthcare and not target anyone. Together we can beat the pandemic and also be better equipped in future for similar situations.
- Dr. Suhas Kohlekar, Virologist and social activist for health rights
- Dr. Shakeel, Consultant Physician and Convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Bihar
- Dr. Monica Chandy, Consultant Neurologist, New Delhi
- Dr.Mohan Rao, former professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU, New Delhi.
- Deepika, Researcher , Chhattisgarh
- Dr. Amar Jesani, Independent researcher, Mumbai
- Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, Public Health doctor, Karnataka
- Dr. Nafis Faizi, People’s Health Movement
- Dr. Christopher Roy, Surgeon
- Dr. Prabir KC, Public Health Consultant
- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Convenor JSA Mumbai
- Dr, Mira Shiva (Public Health Physician )
- Dr. Vikas Bajpai, Assistant Professor, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
- Dr. Peehu Pardeshi, Assistant Professor, Jamsetji Tata School of Disaster Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
- Dr. Bijoya Roy, Public Health Researcher, New Delhi
- Dr.K.R.Antony, Consultant Public Health, Child Survival and Development. Kochi
- Nachiket Udupa, Public health
- Dr. Nidhin Joseph, Public Health Physician, Mumbai
- Dr. Indira Chakravarthy, public health researcher
- Dr.B.Ekbal, Member Kerala State Planning Board
- Dr. Shah Alam Khan, Professor of Orthopedics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
- Dr. Sulakshana Nandi, Public Health Researcher, Chhattisgarh
- Dewal, Public Health Worker Chhattisgarh
- Rajiv Choudhrie, MedSup Padhar hospital, Betul MP
- Dr Jammi N Rao, FRCP, Retired Public Health Consultant, United Kingdom
- Dr Sushrut Jadhav, Psychiatrist and Medical Anthropologist, University College London, UK
- Dr Kaaren Mathias, Public health physician, Uttarakhand
- Dr Bittu KR, Public health activist
- Brinelle Dsouza, TISS and Convenor JSA Mumbai
- Dr. Rifath Ali, Adjunct Faculty, Public Environmental Health and Occupational Safety, Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky
- Teena Xavier, Public health researcher and activist, Gulbarga, Karnataka
Leave a Reply