Primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in rural India are the first point of response, when people report sickness. Their role is to ensure primary care and treatment for patients, prevent the spread of the infection through early detection, and provide the necessary support for home-based care that will help reduce the pressure on hospitals.

In reality, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has starkly exposed the poor foundation of the primary healthcare system. The number of rural people requiring medical care and emergency support during this second wave has increased, and the PHCs have failed to provide the necessary support and services.

As with many other states, PHCs are a neglected component of the Jharkhand health system. They are understaffed and underutilised. There is a significant shortage of medical officers, nurses, and paramedical staff in the state, and trained human resources are randomly deployed regardless of the need or skillset.

Given this background, Jharkhand has had to mount a COVID-19 response to address the rising surge in the state.

As per the state-level sources, as on May 24th, 2021, Jharkhand has provided the first dose of the vaccine to 91 percent of healthcare workers, 85 percent of the targeted frontline workers, and 28 percent of the population above the age of 45. With respect to the second dose, only 86 percent of the healthcare workers, 80 percent of the frontline workers, and 78 percent of the population above 45 years of age have been covered.

The state has directed the health ministry, the rural development ministry, and panchayats to engage their field-level cadres in promoting home isolation, early testing, and treatment. They have also been encouraged to use the funds allocated under the 15th finance commission to manage quarantine centres at the panchayat-level, with a focus on isolating inbound migrant workers from other states.

Read the full article about responding to surging COVID cases in India by Ranjan Kanti Panda at India Development Review (IDR).