Karnataka: Village-level screening centres enrol community in Covid fight | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: In an effort to involve the village community in the pandemic battle, the government launched Gram Arogya Seva Kendras (GASK) to screen people for Covid-19. The initiative, which began from a hamlet in Chikkaballapura’s Gauribidanur taluk, has now grown in size, covering districts like Hassan and Belagavi among others.
The screening centres, simply put, are for the people and by the people. Anganwadis or other government structures have been turned into GASKs, which are run by local ASHA and anganwadi workers with the assistance of villagers, who have contributed towards the purchase of basic health equipment like the infrared thermometer, pulse oximeter, digital blood pressure meter and a glucometer. Each of these kits is valued at Rs 6,500 to Rs 10,000.
The concept was introduced in Gauribidanur’s Vidurashwatha village, popularly known as the Jallianwala Bagh of the south as 32 people were massacred by British forces in 1938, in early April. The number of GASKs has grown to 120 in the past few months.
As the fear of Covid-19 gripped the entire region, a few officials conceptualised involvement of the community in tackling the health hazard effectively. Special officer deputed to the taluk, Varaprasad Reddy, and Chikkaballapura ZP CEO Fauzia Tarannum decided to experiment with the concept by setting up sub-centres or health screening centres at the village level.
“We decided to create these sub-centres, which helped us in pandemic management. The screening was effective and tracking of people was easy. We could also shift the infected to the designated centres quickly with a better turnaround time,” explained Tarannum.
The district administration used the initiative to reach out to residents in villages with no access to primary healthcare centres (PHCs). Chikkaballapura has 16 PHCs in its jurisdiction.

After door-to-door surveys are conducted, GASK staff screen the vulnerable section of society —those aged above 60 and below 10 years and people with co-morbidities — on a daily basis.
“The staff check their saturation levels, BP and sugar levels. If the parameters are above or below the normal range, the GASK refers the person to the nearest PHC for further course of action,” said Tarannum, adding that all staff at the centres have been equipped with PPE kits and trained in screening by the district health officer.
Lack of funds a hurdle
All gram panchayats in the state have been asked to replicate the concept, which is proven an effective tool in containing virus spread in the hinterlands. However, officials say there’s a lack of funding from the state to sustain the initiative during and after Covid-19.
“For the current fiscal, we don’t have a separate allocation for GASKs to help the 6,021 GPs. As a result, we have written to all district CEOs to generate internal revenue and look for donors to procure health equipment kits for GASKs,” said RDPR principal secretary LK Atheeq.
Also, With normalcy likely to be restored in the coming months, the government may not be able to divert ASHA and anganwadi workers for GASK duty.

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Sagar Biswas

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