If Odisha’s COVID-19 management has been better than most other states of India, part of the credit for this should go to the state’s dynamic additional chief secretary, department of health and family welfare, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra. The senior IAS officer, who was given charge of the department at a critical juncture when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak in the state, took immediate steps to bring the situation under control.
An excellent planner, he issued clear-cut instructions to his subordinates on what they were supposed to do. He ensured that once a strategy was worked out, it was properly implemented. Right from upgrading health facilities and making use of cutting-edge technology to ensuring a seamless vaccination drive, everything was taken care of.
An officer with tons of experience, he realized the importance of not only providing the best possible environment to frontline health workers to be able to give their best, but also encouraging them in many other ways. While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s directives were carried out with utmost efficiency, Mohapatra took personal care to ensure that the state’s health infrastructure was good enough to meet the challenge posed by the pandemic.
Hospitals and health centres, even in remote areas, were properly equipped and attendance of doctors was ensured. Considering that absenteeism of doctors in health centres in remote tribal areas has been a major problem plaguing the state’s health system, Mohapatra’s contribution in bringing things back to normal in the shortest possible time is definitely praiseworthy.
While getting the required health infrastructure ready was a challenge that he handled wonderfully, he also ensured that the state had sufficient trained manpower to deal with any emergency. For example, in the context of the growing fear of a third wave of COVID-19 and the possibility of children being affected most by them, the health department took immediate steps under Mohapatra’s supervision to ensure that trained child specialists were ready to face any kind of situation.
The logistics of organizing a mass vaccination drive for crores of people can be extremely daunting. But Mohapatra was up to the challenge. While he kept track of the arrival and dispatch of vaccines to different parts of the state, he took care of bringing any shortage or other related problem to the immediate notice of the Chief Minister. Thus, the Odisha government knew exactly when to mount pressure on the Centre for a fresh supply of vaccines. Thus, a few hiccups notwithstanding, the vaccination drive in the state has been going on smoothly and people are satisfied with its progress. The Chief Minister made the right move at the right time by putting Mohapatra in charge of the health department. Officers like him would be an invaluable asset to any state in the country.