Fund crunch hits Kerala's efforts to set up COVID first-line care centres

Kerala issues directive, no government official can now refuse to do COVID duty
COVID-19 First-Line Treatment Centre at Chellanam in Ernakulam district. Photo: Facebook/Ernakulam Collector

The local self-governments in the state are struggling to set up COVID first-line treatment centres (CFLTCs) due to financial crunch.

The funds were supposed to be allotted to the respective district disaster management authorities (DDMAs) but the state government has not been able to provide the requisite amounts to the local bodies.

The Finance Department had asked the district, block, and gram panchayats and municipalities to open interest-free savings bank accounts in treasuries to park funds collected by way of COVID donations. The disaster mitigation funds were also to be parked in the same accounts. However, the state has not been able to provide the third instalment of the Plan fund to the panchayats and municipalities, thereby impeding COVID-control measures.

The Local-Self Government Department had suggested that between Rs. 25 lakh and 60 lakh be allotted through DDMAs to set up CFLTCs of varying capacities.

The plan was to allot Rs. 25 lakh to set up centres with 100 beds; Rs. 40 lakh for centres with 100 to 200 beds; and Rs. 60 lakh for centres with over 200 beds.

The Chief Minister had stated that the third instalment, usually allotted in November-December, would be given out earlier than schedule to set up the CFLTCs.

Also, the Local Self-Government Department came out with a directive saying that the district and grama panchayats need not set up CFLTCs without being told so by the respective DDMAs.

The Local-Self Government Secretary had informed the Directors of Panchayat and Urban Affairs Department and Rural Development Commissioners that the responsibility of setting up CFLTCs was with the Corporations, municipalities, and panchayats.

The CFLTCs would function as hospitals which would specifically treat or observe possible COVID patients. Those who test positive in the rapid antigen tests and show no symptoms would be taken to CFLTCs. The idea is that this would reduce the stress on the public health infrastructure of the state.

The rapid-antigen tests had been throwing up ‘false negative’ results and those who tested negative had shown symptoms. The ICMR had said that rapid-antigen tests should be sequentially followed up with the more rigorous RT-PCR test to arrive at a conclusive result on COVID.

Too many false negatives in antigen tests is also one reason why CFLTCs were thought of and implemented, sources said.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that small and medium hospitals would also be allowed to set up CFLTCs.

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