‘COVID-19 crisis has radically transformed the way India looks at its healthcare systems’

Ms Kulpreet Freddy Vesuna, veteran PR professional, Managing Director of Impact Public Relations sees enormous opportunities in COVID-19 crisis and observes that Pandemic would radically transformed the way India looks at its Health Systems. In a candid interview with ImpactHealth Bureau, she spoke on several issues related to COVID-19, Healthcare communication, New Normal, Challenges and Opportunities. Excerpts

How do you see COVID-19 crisis? Can our existing healthcare infrastructure deal with properly and adequately?

COVID-19 crisis exposed our existing healthcare infrastructure and thanks to timely lockdown, as a nation we bought sometime to ramp up our healthcare infrastructure to deal with the crisis of this magnitude. COVID-19 and its cascading effects on human lives called for a paradigm shift and I am sure when the government would look at its earlier spending on health systems ( 1.2% of GDP), it should realise the blunder. However, COVID-19 crisis has radically transform the way India looks at its healthcare systems. Now, in terms of spending several prominent sectors would take a backseat and healthcare would be top priority. By 2030, India strives to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), but I would not be surprised if we achieve it by 2023.

What would be the impact of COVID-19 on PR Industry

History has taught us every time that change is the only permanent thing here. COVID-19 pandemic is that which has affected thousands of lives across the globe. With an atmosphere of uncertainty, the whole world is dealing with the crisis both medically and economically. We cannot ignore the status of the world's economy which is almost stalled for an unforeseeable future. We are still not in a position to minimize the huge cascading effects of COVID-19 outbreak on human lives.

Is it really a bad time for the industry ?

Like any other sector, PR and Communications industry too is impacted due to this pandemic. As the clients retract retainers, prefer stirring or avoiding participating in media quotes and the most important battle is real-time crisis surfacing due to COVID-19 outbreak. Hence, Impact on PR Industry is enormous. 

In term of operations, the major challenge which is being faced is the cancellation of public launches and events, the traditional marketing and PR have completely gone for a hit. Also, the major challenge is to build clients visibility when the entire media universe is only reporting news of pandemic and the crisis. 

When we talk about the bad impact the of the COVID-19 on PR sector the first thing which pops up the mind is that will PR Industry be able to sustain? As we cannot deny the fact that the industries will start considering the hiring of PR agencies at least till sometime in the future hence, which can be a threat to the sector and that can be probably the ‘Ugly’ side. Crisis communication is something every PR sector should work on precisely during this pandemic, one should put in forth the context that communication has to be clear from the senior leadership team and leverage the tools of strategy for the respective clients during these pandemic crises. 

From the industry point of view, is ‘New Normal’ sustainable ?

Evidently, the COVID-19 crisis has induced a mass humanizing effect. People are together in this all the social media platforms are flooded with tips and masses are showering empathies for every other human being. It is truly an unprecedented unity against a common enemy. The pandemic has seemed to urge the industry to opt for new innovative ideas for their client’s visibility. 

As we can see the Work from Home (WFH) scenarios has now been accepted as the new normal and the physical meetings are being replaced by web meetings through video conferencing tools such as Zoom calls. While WFH has some limitations, especially for PR professionals but now the team seems to have settled down to the circumstances. Many PR firms have started investing a lot in digital storytelling. This as an opportunity to focus our creative energies in mobilizing wellness and welfare communication as well as in renewing hope and confidence through such creative ideas that benefit the consumers.

During a crisis, the role of media becomes very critical. Do you think Media has handled COVID-19 efficiently in making people aware of the virus and keeping the government & agencies on toes?

Health Communicators applaud the crucial role of Media played in dealing with the COVID19 crisis. Media has handled COVID-19 efficiently in making people aware of the virus and keeping the government & agencies on toes. It is promising to note that media listen to our appeal to speak with the authorized people on the COVID-19 preparedness and response plan. This was very important at a time when rumours and fake news also dominated the information highways.  

Media has been aggressively and extensively covering the outbreak and its cascading impact on human lives. We understand that media is handling an enormous burden of disseminating the right information to the people of India. However, it is important that we follow Country Preparedness & Response Plan. Frontline Health workers are known as ‘ Corona Warrior’ along with security forces and other service professionals. Do you think, the country is taking good care of them?

Yes, the country has been taking good care of them in terms of their safety, insurance coverage and other facilities. Currently there is a lot of panic and uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus, one thing however is certain that medical professionals are working incredibly hard and are the only ones standing between COVID19 & the Nation. However, as a responsible citizen, we need to extend full support to them. India has been very quick in adopting the plan and implementing too. However, the magnitude of the population, no one knows how the virus is going to emerge. The country is presently approaching Stage 3, which is contagiousness at the community level. The healthcare infrastructure needs to be prepared to cope up with the highest level. The best way to contain and control the virus is self-hygiene and social distancing, other than this there is no prevention, vaccine or treatment available. The virus can be mild, which can be dealt with being treated and being quarantined. The severe& critical ones can lead to pneumonia and can be fatal.