On Saturday, state Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma briefed a press conference to address the final situation. He announced that the COVID-19 expenditure is adversely affecting the state’s financial assets. Thus he informed that the government will now withdraw a host of freebies.
He announced the discontinuation of some of the non-chargeable services. Patients from now will have to arrange their transport after discharge. Additionally, the hospitals will now charge fees on dedicated cabins. He also added that government hospitals will now charge Rs 2,200 for RT-PCR tests within 24 hours.
Sarma also explained that patients in private hospitals would have to pay Rs 6,000 for plasma. But he clarified that the medicines would continue to be free. Besides this, the government will also continue to fund the transport of inter-district patients after release.
Sarma also requested that patients should bring their food. At the current pace, providing food for the patients might become a problem in the coming days. But the government will continue to feed the BPL patients, he added.
“We made a calculation that till yesterday we had one lakh patients. If the patients are staying in a government hospital for ten days, that means it will be 10 lakh in headcount. If we are spending Rs 500 per day, then it becomes a Rs 500 crore affair. We have done 20 lakh tests, and if we have spent Rs 1,000 approximately in each, then it is a Rs 200 crore affair. The state government can definitely not handle such a huge burden. So, a time may come when we will be able to look after only the poor patients. However, today that situation has not come yet” ,Sarma said in his assessment.
While commenting on the COVID-19 scene, Sarma said that 433 patients are on oxygen support while 126 remain in ICUs. However, Sarma seemed very concerned about the current scenario.
“One worrying thing is the rising consumption of oxygen. In the last month, the average daily consumption of oxygen for COVID-19 patients was five metric tonnes, which has increased to 8.25 metric tonnes this month. If we consider the non-COVID-19 patients, then it is 25 metric tonnes,” he added.
Currently, Assam produces around 37.86 metric tonnes of oxygen daily. However, at the current pace, there might be an oxygen crisis soon, explained Sarma said. Sarma added that the Assam Government is in talks with Bengal and Bihar regarding this issue. However, bringing oxygen tankers every day is not an easy task, he explained.
He said that in the initial stage, the state was able to maintain the death rate at 0.24% till around August 15. But it gradually increased, and now it sits at around 0.28%. Besides this, the positivity rate has also jumped to 6% from the previous 4.5%. Thus the state anticipating a spill over very soon, Sarma added.