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covid-19: Doctor’s suicide: Mysuru protests may slow down Covid-19 testing in Karnataka


BENGALURU: Friction between a section of doctors and Mysuru district authorities over the alleged suicide of a health officer in Nanjangud last week will impact Covid-19 control efforts in the state, top government officials told ET.

Doctors protesting before the funeral of Dr SR Nagendra used strong words against a minister and top IAS officers. In fact, video clips of them using filthy language against the then Mysuru Zilla Panchayat CEO and caustic expressions against the minister and the health commissioner have gone viral.

The police later registered a First Information Report against the Mysuru zilla panchayat CEO, naming him as first accused, and leaving the door open to include more names.

“The CEO was discharging his Covid-19 control responsibilities as assigned by the government. The police registering a criminal case for doing government work has left many of our deputy commissioners and zilla panchayat CEOs demoralised. The sad case of suicide, and the bitter protests that emerged later, will delay things in districts,” a senior state administrator told ET.

Health administrators in Bengaluru are concerned that the hostility being faced by senior officers might result in lax testing on the ground, which will delay efforts to contain the pandemic.

The government had to pursue an aggressive testing strategy in Mysuru in view of the sharp rise in the number of deaths, the second highest in the state, due to late reporting of Covid-19 symptoms by patients.

“The government wanted to control the death numbers,” the senior official, who did not want to be identified, told ET.

On August 21 and 22, the district could not report any Coivd-19 positive cases after the government doctors went on strike, disrupting services and Covid-19 testing in government hospitals.

They only relented after the government transferred the IAS officer, ordered an inquiry and announced compensation and a job to a family member of the deceased.

State chief secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar also followed up on the government measures with a circular, which said the government had come to know that senior officials were exerting pressure on frontline health workers engaged in Covid-19 control efforts.

Bhaskar asked heads of districts and zilla panchayats to treat doctors and other staffers with respect and a sense of understanding.

A series of government actions including the chief secretary’s circular — done with an intention to defuse the situation in Mysuru and persuade the doctors to return to work – has, however, left another section of administrators displeased.

Senior health and panchayat officials may think twice before demanding results, which could lead to a drop in testing numbers even as the government plans to quickly scale up testing, they said.

“We are really worried that the number of Covid-19 positive cases may not come down in about a month, something we want to achieve. Instead, it might go up with sluggish testing trends,” a health administrator said.

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