Gangtok: Two politicians in Sikkim, formerly doctors by profession, have once again donned their white coats and PPE suit to reach out to the rural populace in Sikkim amidst COVID-19 spread.

Dr Bina Basnet and Dr Mechung Bhutia both served Sikkim previously. Now, keeping the politics aside, they began their initiative ‘Hamro Mit, Manavta ko Jit’ on the occasion of World Environment Day.

The two doctor-politicians and their team visited Rhenock and Chujachen constituency in East Sikkim, bordering West Bengal.

Dr Mechung Bhutia, a former legislator till 2019 with Sikkim Democratic Front, has been at the forefront of the initiative, even before the collaboration. The ex-MLA from Martam-Rumtek constituency in East Sikkim has been reaching out to the monks in various monasteries after they tested positive. He has been providing medical services and medicines to people across his constituency over the past two weeks. Speaking with the media on June 4, before the launch of their initiative, Dr Mechung urged retired doctors from the state to come forth in this time of need. “The younger graduates from both medical and nursing fields are a big requirement in the society currently, they must come ahead and aid people. As medical resource person, if we cannot aid the people, all our knowledge will be futile. Anyone interested can join us”.

Hamro Sikkim Party’s Hamro Swastha initiative has been ongoing since 2019, while SDF’s Sikkim COVID-19 Suraksha Committee has also been catering to the public. Similarly, many other organisations have been providing support to people. But, the two doctors feel that a common platform was lacking, which they now feel they have created. “There is community-level transmission, we must work towards making Sikkim COVID 19 free. The government is trying, so are we. We will reach the grassroots, just as today in Rhenock and Chujachen. It is not a case of only when the patients reach STNM or the CRH hospital that they can be treated. The positivity rate cannot be brought down, but we have to reach the roots in our villages and homes. The age groups are varied. Those who have not even ventured out of their homes are positive. We will reach out to COVID positive patients, their primary contacts as well as to non-COVID patients and provide services and medicines. We need to segregate, for which we are building teams in all the districts”, stated Dr Bhutia, promising to deliver oximeters to the COVID positive patients.

The doctors will also ensure blood investigation for free in tandem with hospital facilities. Elsewhere co-morbidities will also be laid focus on.

Dr Bina Basnet assured that the decision to serve the people ‘is not at all politics but humanity’. She stated, “Do not think of the initiative to be from two parties, we are keeping that aside and working for the social good. We want to bring together NGOs, private doctors, and volunteers, so this is an attempt at a collective solution. At least the urban places have health facilities but in rural areas, seeing our geographic and climatic condition, the challenge of reaching a hospital becomes troublesome.

Sikkim is at the centre of diabetes, tuberculosis and hypertension, these illnesses are not being treated due to COVID 19. The spread of transmission is due to movement, hence we are taking the medical services at the doorstep of the people. Rations and necessities are reaching, but there is also the mental pressure of the lockdown and the pandemic. So, when a doctor reaches their doorstep, that fear of the virus is fought back for the common people”.

Dr Basnet, MD is a former academician at Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi with years of experience even in Sikkim before joining politics in 2018. “We will be assessing them in their initial phase, getting the people tested, and ensuring if they need hospitalisation. The mortality rate in Sikkim is alarming at an average of 3 every day in such a small population. When we can identify which patient could be in a fatal condition due to the virus, we will be able to diagnose and send them for treatment. We will carry out RAT testing, triaging looking at their history along with treatment”, stated Basnet.

On June 5, the two doctors and their team catered to 31 houses in Chujachen and 21 houses in Rhenock, with 43 patients being treated and 13 patients being administered medicine.

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