Mortality rate of above 5% could be alarming, warns FC’s health panel

In a recent meeting of the 15th Finance Commission, top officials of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), too, said every effort must be made to keep the mortality rate below 5%, cautioning that if the number of deaths per day rise to 1,...

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NEW DELHI: The 15th Finance Commission’s high-level panel on health has cautioned that a Covid-19 mortality rate of above 5% could be a major reason for worry, especially amid an expected surge in infections in poorly served districts.

In a recent meeting of the 15th Finance Commission, top officials of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), too, said every effort must be made to keep the mortality rate below 5%, cautioning that if the number of deaths per day rise to 1,000-2,000, it will become “alarming” for the government, people privy to the development told ET.

The Covid-19 mortality rate in India is around 2.8% now and the country had reported close to 300 deaths on Saturday. The finance commission has requested its expert group on health, which has All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Randeep Guleria as convenor, to review its report in the light of Covid-19.


The group is in the process of recommending immediate, short and medium-term measures keeping the pandemic in mind. These recommendations will be critical to deciding the allocation for the health sector by the 15th FC for the next five years, sources said. At the finance commission meeting held on May 21, ICMR officials had said while the Covid-19 infection curve in the country has not flattened, its impact has got distributed “for a long haul of two to three years” as is the case with Covid-related deaths.

They also noted how the current strategy of ‘track, trace and treat’ is working well almost across states, except in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The commission’s expert group stressed the need for close coordination with district collectors and chief medical officers, besides building a district level telemedicine apparatus, to address a surge in cases at district level.
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Almost all members expressed concern about the pressures in case of infection escalation in rural areas with just one district hospital and scarce private facilities, sources said.

Some of the members raised concerns over increasing high viral load on young doctors and healthcare staff and comorbidities in younger age population. The May 21meeting, presided by chairman NK Singh, discussed a range of measures.

15th FC- Focus COVID 19
What is the High Level Group on Health looking at:

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Immediate Measures:

  • ·E-ICUs, rural mobile health units, hop-on-hop off service for Covid patients
  • ·Final year MD students be allowed to practice with a ‘Board eligible’ certificate to meet manpower shortage
  • Use aadhar data to help track vulnerable senior citizens
  • ·Clear pending CGHS dues of hospitals
  • ·Provision of ‘flexible money’ for COVID 19 to help both Centre and states
Short term measures:

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  • An ‘Outbreak Management Plan’ along with more infectious disease centres
  • IT based crash courses to train health workers for COVID management
  • Allowing medical colleges to run a 100 student additional programme. One year diploma course after MBBS for lab medicine and ultrasound. Incentivizing doctors and paramedics to go on rural duty
  • Training nurses to develop into ‘nurse practitioners’ who can prescribe 47 basic drugs
  • ·Policy on waste disposal. Finance vaccine development and provision for masses
Medium term:

  • Increase health spending from 0.9% of GDP to 2.5% with focus on primary health care, district hospitals, national ambulance and IT infrastructure
  • More MBBS/AYUSH doctors for Primary and wellness health centres to address manpower shortage
  • Explore ways of expanding PM JAY to remaining 60% population
  • Create an All India Medical Service on lines of Indian Civil Services
  • Replicate the UK National Health Service
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