Nodal officers appointed to help in medical emergencies in Delhi containment zones
The Delhi government has released a new protocol for streamlining the process of dealing with medical emergencies in containment zones, appointing nodal officers across districts who would help in arranging ambulances and health workers, a senior government officials said on Wednesday.
Delhi has 96 containment zones, according to the government health bulletin issued on Wednesday. Residents of these areas are not allowed to venture outdoors even to procure essential goods and medicines. Medical emergencies are the only exception.
In the latest move, nodal officers have been appointed for all 33 subdivisions under Delhi’s 11 revenue districts. A senior government official said each nodal officer has a team and resources that include vehicles and health workers who can be availed of at the earliest in case of a health emergency.
The phone numbers of the nodal officers have been distributed among residents of containment zones in the past few days. So, in case of a health emergency, they have to dial a single number for help, the official said.
“In some districts, the nodal officers are monitoring the process of doorstep delivery of essentials,” said district magistrate (south) BM Mishra.
Another government official said, “Initially, there were cases in which police officials or health officials deployed in the containment zones were informed about health emergency and they told their seniors before arranging an ambulance themselves. In some cases, they did have the resources. In others, they prioritised protocols over natural instinct. Ultimately, it resulted in delays.”
Then there are cases when police officials have arranged vehicles on their own to tackle emergencies, said the official, adding: “The appointment of nodal officers is expected to further streamline the process.”
Jugal Kishore, head of the community medicine department in Safdarjung Hospital, said: “It can be a good strategy provided that the nodal officers have access to adequate resources – from vehicles to manpower needed to attend a large number of calls and act as helping hand during emergencies. It would be even better if the government considers involving community volunteers in this process. It would get further streamlined.”
Of all the current containment zones in Delhi, the oldest one happens to be Nizamuddin Basti in south-east district that was made as a no-go zone on March 30, after around 3,000 people were evacuated from the Markaz building in the vicinity. Earlier that month, the building had witnessed a religious congregation attended by thousands. The area is yet to be de-sealed.
On April 26, Mohammad Yasin, a resident of Nizamuddin Basti, had to be rushed to the hospital for a sudden stomach pain that turned severe within minutes. His relatives said they tried calling an ambulance on their own but that did not work out. So, they had to take help of the police officials deployed at the nearest barricade.
“My brother then took me in a car and tried to go to a hospital but the authorities stopped us at the checkpoint and asked if it was a genuine case of a medical emergency. It took a lot of time to convince them and get a nod to go out of the area,” he said.
Yasin alleged that several hospitals refused to diagnose him after he disclosed his address that indicated that he lived in a containment zone. Later, he was admitted at a private hospital, he said
Salim Nizami, a resident of Nizamuddin Basti, said his daughter had labour pain in the first week of April and had to be taken to a private hospital which she regularly visited for check-ups during her pregnancy. “But the hospital admitted her after a long argument and a Covid test, while she was writhing in pain,” said Nizami, a doctor himself.
Four separate district magistrates who HT spoke to said that no hospital is supposed to refuse patients from containment zones and there is a clear protocol for that issued by the Union health ministry. They, however, refused to disclose any specific case.
Kishore said: “Hospitals have screening OPDs for this purpose. In case a resident of a containment zone is found to be symptomatic then the person should be tested and isolated till the test results are out, unless it is a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention. If the person tests positive later, he/she should be moved to a dedicated Covid facility and treated there. If not, they should be treated in a normal (non-Covid) ward in the hospital. Asymptomatic people should be treated immediately. Refusing to entertain patients just because they are residents of a containment zone is unethical.”