Arunachal gets its first ICU as Covid-19 exposes NE’s health woes

India’s spending on healthcare is the lowest among OECD and BRICS nations | Image - Prathap Ravishankar

Within hours of detecting the first COVID-19 case in his state on April 2, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu dialled up his Assam counterpart Sarbananda Sonowal. Khandu wanted Sonowal to help accommodate critical patients from his state in medical facilities at Assam’s Dibrugarh or Guwahati.

The pre-emptive request was inevitable considering the Himalayan state, which attained statehood in February 1987, had its first ever intensive care unit (ICU) opened only about a week before at the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Science (TRIHMS), the state’s first medical college inaugurated two years ago at Naharlagun near Itanagar.

Around the same time when the chief minister was on the phone discussing the future course of action, officials from Arunachal’s Upper Dibang Valley district during a feedback survey told the Prime Minister's Office that the closest testing centre was 379 km away, at Dibrugarh (Assam), which made sample collection and testing time-consuming and arduous.

State health minister Alo Libang was candid enough to admit that the health infrastructure was getting due attention only after the outbreak of the pandemic.

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