Use Social Media responsibly, Dimapur health officials urge

Inform on current COVID-19 test protocols 

Morung Express News
Dimapur | September 1

With the entire world reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising death toll across districts in Nagaland bear witness to the devastation caused by the virus in the State.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, a total of 606 persons have died of COVID-19 in Nagaland till date and 14 other deaths have been classified as ‘not-COVID related’, according to data released by the State Health and Family Welfare department.

However, along with the fatalities, the State has also seen its share of allegations and controversies over patients unfortunately succumbing to the infection.

In August, relatives of a deceased COVID-19 patient leveled accusations against a private hospital in Dimapur, which included allegations of negligence, improper testing and withholding medical reports/ death summary report. Another incident involving a patient in another private hospital was highlighted in the same month. Both reports surfaced on social media platforms and caused quite uproar, leading to clarification by one of the hospitals in question. 

Against this backdrop, the office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dimapur briefed the media on September 1 with the objective of clarifying on certain COVID-19 guidelines and procedures followed by the hospitals in the district as well as address these allegations.

While stating that the purpose of the briefing was not to produce ‘counter-allegations’ or to target anyone in particular, Dimapur CMO Moatemjen said that most of the issues are mainly due to ‘lack of awareness.

The press conference, therefore, was called to give an overview of the incidents as well as to explain the technical aspects of the various COVID-19 related procedures that are being followed.

On procedure and guideline for COVID-19 tests
Dr Sedevi Angami, Director of Christian Institute of Health Sciences and Research (CIHSR) explained the procedure and guideline for hospitals to be followed while conducting COVID-19 tests.

Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT are included in the choice of test. Patients who test positive from a RAT are considered as positive and treatment is initiated accordingly, Dr Sedevi said.

As per the guidelines/protocol, no further confirmatory test is needed, he informed. In case of RAT negative report, RT-PCR or TrueNat/ CBNAAT, tests are used to confirm the report, he added.

As RAT takes lesser time to ascertain the patient’s status, Dr Sedevi informed that it is the preferred mode of test in emergency cases as opposed to RT-PCR and TrueNat tests which take longer time to provide results.

Regarding allegations about not availing consent of the family members, Dr Sedevi further informed that it is mandatory for the hospitals to avail consent before initiating any treatment.

On allegations of the hospital delaying release of the patient’s dead body, he further maintained that the additional time taken was due to the fact that dead bodies of COVID positive patients are released after proper disinfection and packing as per Government guidelines along with necessary documentation. 

Moreover, all necessary medical reports were handed over to the patient party as per the hospital protocol, it was informed.

While the hospitals follow the laid down guidelines and protocols, in case of such issues in the future, an independent committee for incident analysis could be set up which in turn would conduct an impartial assessment of the incident, he said. 

Suggesting that the district administration could develop an impartial probe mechanism, he also said that a formal note will be written to the district Deputy Commissioner along the same lines.

‘Use social media responsibly’
Highlighting the dangers of social media content creators and users disseminating reports without technical knowledge or proper information on protocols and SOPs, the CMO stressed on responsible use of social media.

Likewise, Dr Sedevi said that there is a lot of social media activity, most of which is ‘one sided’ without verifying things.

These activities are causing more harm than good, he noted, further cautioning that such content can be very inflammatory and cause a huge amount of damage. For a lot of people, their only source of information is social media and whatever information they avail on the social media platforms is being consumed, he added.

People have lost the ability to analyze, critique and reason and this is causing a lot of problem; therefore, the understanding of responsible usage of social media is very important, he underscored. 

Adding that the clarification on test procedures was felt necessary as people seem confused about the same, he also underscored that the same information is available on all official government and health authority websites which can be accessed by any one. 

Appealing for proper research and fact-based reports, the district health officials also sought cooperation from all in tackling the pandemic in a united manner.