Kerala now scrambling to set up temporary hospitals

State looking to tackle surge of water-borne diseases in the aftermath of the floods

( August 23, 2018 )

Kerala’s public health department has urged individuals, the administrations of other states and the Union health ministry to provide medical equipment for these temporary hospitals.

New Delhi: The Kerala government is scrambling to set up temporary hospitals in the wake of the unprecedented floods that have left the state too devastated to tackle an expected surge of water-borne diseases until the damaged hospitals resume functioning again, said K.K. Shailaja, the state’s health minister.

The state’s public health department has urged individuals, the administrations of other states and the Union health ministry to provide medical equipment for these temporary hospitals.

“We are convening meetings with different state departments. Some hospitals in Kerala either got submerged or have fallen down. Reconstruction is not easy. However, before the situation returns to normal, we have decided to establish temporary hospitals in some buildings within 30 days,” Shailaja told Mint.

“After the flood water recedes, it is expected that the disease burden will rise. We are reaching out to various sectors and the Union and state governments to help us with medical equipment such as X-Ray machines and ultrasound machines, so that we can run these temporary hospitals until our original hospitals resume functioning normally,” she said.

The state is following the hospital disaster management guidelines issued by the directorate of health services (DHS) in March 2018.

“In a disaster situation, no single healthcare facility alone can provide optimal care to all the victims affected. Networking helps and identifies not only the strength and weaknesses of our own hospital but also other available resources in the area so that optimal care of patients can be taken. For example, a district hospital might not have a CT scanner but this might be available at a private setup nearby that can be utilised by the district authorities in case of disaster so that the treatment of the victims is not delayed,” the guidelines state.

The Union government, NGOs and neighbouring states are donating medicines, injections and various items, apart from running mobile medical vans.

Smile On Wheels, the health vertical of NGO Smile Foundation, has offered to provide healthcare services and conduct health camps once the water levels recede. The main objective is to prevent the outbreak of any water-borne diseases. The foundation’s mobile medical unit will consist of two general physicians, two nurses and one pharmacist, a medicine vendor, and a warehouse to stock supplies.

The flood has also affected telemedicine, which uses electronic signals to transfer medical data such as photographs, X-Ray images, audio, and patient records from one site to another over the internet, intranets, satellites or through videoconferencing telephone equipment to improve access to healthcare.

The Union health ministry under the National Rural Health Mission has established a project for revitalization of existing telemedicine centres and scaling up telemedicine facilities to more primary care centres in Kerala. The state has some telemedicine centres that have been affected by the floods such as OncoNET-Kerala at the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, and Malabar Hospitals.

“We are also trying to restore these telemedicine centres as they can help in treatment after the flood water recedes and diseases start emerging,” she said.