While writing this report, Mumbai city single-handedly crossed the figure of twenty thousand corona infections. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) - which includes Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan, Dombivali, Vasai Virar etc - are not taken into account for these figures. Even though the entire state of Maharashtra is witnessing total administrative failure under Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray during this crisis, the story of Mumbai is the classic case of healthcare failure.
Mumbai has the biggest government hospitals in Maharashtra. Some of the finest big hospitals in the state are run by the Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). It is noteworthy that the BMC is also ruled by Shiv Sena. Even though the same party is ruling at both state and the BMC, there is a complete absence of coordination between the two levels of Governance at this critical time.
It was evident from the day one that once this slums or chawl colonies get first corona infection, it will lead to the community spread, as these areas have common toilets, common water taps and narrow passages. Even after these colonies got infected - like Dharavi and Worli - the government slept over it. Nor Thackeray government nor the BMC tried to improve the systems - be it administrative or medical. Instead, the Shivsena gave a contract to improve the "image" of the government to a PR firm.
No proper training was given to the supporting staff about how to avoid corona. There was a video went viral on social media very early in the lockdown, in which a nurse of Mumbai's St George Hospital was seen narrating her agony of dealing with untrained staff and the way their ignorance and behaviour is spreading the COVID19.
No Purchase of Ventilators or PPE kits
Many companies have started manufacturing the portable and less expensive ventilators, after a call given by the Prime Minister for the local production of such ventilators. Mumbai based-Mahindra and Mahindra, and Pune-based Bajaj, which are vehicle giants of India, started producing such portable ventilators. But Maharashtra's trpartiate Alliance Government did not buy it. The tender had to be cancelled three times in a row due to ‘technical’ glitches in it, we are told. The same story goes for the PPE kits.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari who is now in Nagpur, had offered to arrange a supply of more than one lakh PPE kits from the manufacturers in Vidarbha region. But the state government ignored him. Even there is a buzz in Mumbai's Mantralaya that the circular issued for the purchase of infrared thermometers had to be cancelled as it had specified the thermometers with the temperatures range of minus 30 degrees to plus 50 degrees Celsius. This is a matter of gross mismanagement or corruption, as we all know that the human body temperature does not require such a huge range.
Patients on Roads
Mumbai's big hospitals are always over-crowded. But during the Corona pandemic there were unprecedented scenes where some of the hospitals literary shifted the patients under Mumbai's flyovers. As always media, which is in love with the Thackeray government kept mum. As the BJP leader Kirit Somaiya raised voice on the issue after a few days, some of the patients were temporarily shifted to a nearby BMC school. When the BMC has a large number of schools under it, why they failed to convert those into temporary medical facilities?
This same medical system in Mumbai had put up a heroic and coordinated response earlier and won with flying colours during all the terrorist attacks and in response to natural or man-made disasters. But under current Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP rule, the same system has turned into a complete chaos. The Thackeray government has failed Mumbai due to its lethargic policies and the administrative confusions. As there are no clear instructions and clarifications, the corona patients have to wait for hours to get admission in hospitals. The government and BMC hospitals are overcrowded, still people are avoiding private hospitals as they are overcharging. The government always in a denial mode has created a situation where the corona-positive patients have to wait for 2-3 days at home before getting admitted in any hospital.
Even in densely populated localities like Girgaon, the next-door neighbours and the high-risk close contacts of the covid19 patients are not being tested for corona infections. There are also some incidents surfaced where the Corona positive doctors in private hospitals kept attending patients, hiding their own corona positive status.
Some videos went viral on social media showing the patients being kept among the dead bodies lying all over in Sion's Lokmanya Tilak hospital. From other hospitals like Sir JJ Hospital and St. George also similar stories have come up. As social media attacked the insensitive government, some reporters accepted in personal chats that this is happening for a very long-time in the hospitals of Mumbai.
Even though the Shiv Sena is ruling both state and the BMC, there is actually zero coordination between the two institutions at this critical time
Failure of Ambulance System
Another highlight of the failure of the medical system is the crippled ambulance system. In one incident, a police constable dropped dead in the porch of the KEM hospital. He was denied those ready vacant ambulances, saying "those are for critical patients!”. In another gruesome incidence at Dadar in central Mumbai, a traveller who stranded in Mumbai due to lockdown, died of a heart attack in front of a clinic. He went to consult a doctor for hypertension but was denied the required medical care. His friend, who was accompanying, called for an ambulance but all of them denied the service with the reason that their ambulances are only for corona patients. Till today, no case has been registered against the culprits.
The State Government is closing down the private hospitals, If they have identified a corona positive patient there. All trust-run rpivate ut affordable hospitals are closed down due to such erratic decision in the densely populated areas like Girgaon in South Mumbai. These same hospitals cater to the needs of the middle or lower middle classes. All popular dispensaries or clinics remain closed. This led to another chaos as all non-Corona patients are being ignored.
A Complete Policy Failure
There is a colossal policy failure evident during this corona pandemic crisis at the state level. The experienced officers and medicos who had once created a mark of excellence during the previous medical emergencies like epidemics, terrorist attacks and cloudbursts, are being sidelined and kept at bay, in the was against corona. The government has high contempt for the suggestions received from the citizens. Even today, the government fails to communicate with medical and non-medical staff of hospitals, both Government and private; naturally the sufferrers are the common citizens. The Maharashtra Government failed to plan sector-wise response protocols, that would have set forth the path to takle the corona crisis.The lockdown period had to be used for zone-wise screening and testings for corona infections. This precious time was wasted trying to undo everything that is done by the Centre. Former CM Devendra Fadnavis has also alleged that the state government is deliberately making fewer tests to bring down number of corona infections.
The mainstream media is suppressing some of these facts to cover-up the State Government failures. The images of the failed team of CM Uddhav Thackeray, Health Minister Rajesh Tope and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh are being glorified with a typical PR mechanism. Uddhav Thakare who has just managed to enter the legislative council has no control over the situation is a known fact which no one wants to discuss in public. What eveyone suspects in private conversation is that the situation in Mumbai is going out of hand and soon Centre will have to intervene.