How TN’s Nilgiris district is handling COVID-19 cases: Intv with District Collector

District Collector J Innocent Divya, IAS tells TNM that ESI Hospital in Coimbatore is the nodal hospital, and only over the last one week has the district begun treating its own asymptomatic patients.
How TN’s Nilgiris district is handling COVID-19 cases: Intv with District Collector
How TN’s Nilgiris district is handling COVID-19 cases: Intv with District Collector
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The Nilgiris is among the few districts in Tamil Nadu having less than 100 active COVID-19 cases. As of July 5, the Nilgiris has 75 persons undergoing treatment for COVID-19 and has reported 49 recoveries. Between June 30 and July 5, there have been 40 new COVID-19 cases in the district. The hilly district nestled on the Western Ghats is bounded by Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and comprises of six taluks - Udhagamandalam (Ooty), Kundah, Coonoor, Kotagiri, Gudalur and Pandalur.

Of the 75 patients, 60 of them are asymptomatic and are admitted to the Government Hospital (GH) in Ooty. The remaining 15 patients with symptoms or comorbid conditions are at ESI hospital in Coimbatore, a three-hour drive away from the Ooty GH. At present, according to Tamil Nadu's Stop Corona portal, there is one Dedicated COVID Hospital (DCH), two COVID Health Centres (CHC) and eight COVID Care Centres (CCC) in The Nilgiris.

Adequate facilities but lack specialists

J Innocent Divya, IAS, the district Collector explains to TNM that ESI hospital in Coimbatore is their nodal hospital and only over the last one week the district began treating its own asymptomatic patients. “Earlier, we used to send all patients who test positive to ESI hospital in Coimbatore. Now we treat our own asymptomatic patients. Only those above the age of 70 or with comorbid conditions or with symptoms are sent to ESI in Coimbatore,” she says.

This, however, is not because the government hospital at Ooty lacks facilities to treat patients. Although the hospital in Coimbatore, about 100 kilometres from the hospital in Ooty, has better facilities, a recent increase in the number of cases has nudged Nilgiris officials to equip their own hospital. “It is not that our facility is not well-equipped. We have a 200-bedded facility at Ooty GH, we have over 100 ventilators, sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), oxygen support for every bed.  We are well equipped in terms of facilities. However, we do not have the adequate number of specialists to treat patients,” Innocent Divya points out.

She continues, “We have specifically, through monitoring secretary, requested the Health Secretary to depute those specialities to our hospital. We are also getting our own lab facility soon. When that is complete we hope to get our own specialists. We will then be able to treat our own symptomatic patients.”

Present protocols

As per present protocols, if a person tests positive for COVID-19, health workers go through the patient’s history, check for comorbid conditions, assess if they are likely to develop severe symptoms and then assign them to be sent to ESI or Ooty GH accordingly. Patients who are discharged from ESI are quarantined at the COVID Care Centres (CCC) in the Nilgiris for 14 days before being sent home. These CCCs can accommodate about 200-250 persons, shares the Collector.

The Nilgiris presently has 32 containment zones and fever camps are conducted in all of these zones. “We screen all persons inside the containment area and in a five-kilometre radius from that containment area. We have mobile health teams conducting fever clinics. I should compliment my health team and the local body for doing their best work,” she says.

“We disinfect containment areas thrice a day, as stipulated by the government. Other areas we are stepping up our efforts and disinfecting twice a day. We ensure people don’t step out of containment areas and ensure their rations are supplied at their doorstep with help from volunteers. From the date of the last positive, quarantine is continued for 14 days. There are some areas where the containment period is being continued for longer periods. We ensure that they don't feel the difficulties,” she adds.

The major challenge comes from people coming to the district from other places. “E-pass has made it easier for us to trace the positive individuals and their contacts. Now, we ensure that they are put in institution quarantine until their test results return and even after their results, they continue their 14-day quarantine. We have had cases where people test positive even after 14-days of quarantine and so are being very cautious about this. We are now following up with those cases,” she says.

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