A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) tends to a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, in New Delhi.(REUTERS)
A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) tends to a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, in New Delhi.(REUTERS)

Covid-19: Appoint officials to monitor hospitals, Centre asks states

The need to monitor private hospitals was discussed at several levels of the union government including at a meeting chaired by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba this week and, subsequently, at meetings between experts and ministry officials and the states.
By Saubhadra Chatterji | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 18, 2020 07:33 AM IST

The Central government wants other states to follow the Mumbai and Delhi approach to dealing with issues related to difficulties in hospital admission for Covid-19 patients, grievances with how hospitals treat patients , and other such -- by appointing senior government officials to keep an eye on each large hospital treating Covid-19 patients, public and private.

“In Delhi, the Kejriwal government even publicized the name and contact number of the nodal government officer of a hospital,” said a senior central government official who asked not to be named.

Last week, in Pune, a 44-year-old security guard who tested Covid-19 positive died as his family couldn’t find an ICU bed for treatment for six days. In Kolkata, complaints were lodged with the local authorities after a private hospital deployed bouncers at the entrance.

Also read| Covid-19: A million and a manifesto

Earlier this month, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal warned private hospitals and accused some of them of lying about the number of beds they had for patients of the coronavirus disease.

The need to monitor private hospitals was discussed at several levels of the union government including at a meeting chaired by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba this week and, subsequently, at meetings between experts and ministry officials and the states.

“We are encouraging states to adopt a new hub and spoke model for the benefit of Covid patients. The model, implemented in Delhi and Mumbai, has seen less refusals and better bed management,” said a senior official involved in the process who spoke on condition of anonymity -- referring to a model popularised by the logistics and aviation industry where everything gets shipped or everyone gets flown to a hub from where the products or people are sent on to their eventual destination. In this case, the flow isn’t physical, though -- but of information.

District magistrates are expected to act as hubs, and senior government officials, under them, as spokes. This system can also help in screening of patients and admitting only those who need hospital care, added the second official.

Better hospital bed management or allotting beds to only those who actually require to be hospitalized and can’t manage from home is an integral part of India’s battle against Covid-19. As the focus of the government has shifted rapidly from containing Covid numbers to lowering death rates, the new model is likely to be actively pursued by many states.

Also read: ICMR tells states to scale up rapid antigen testing

The centre is also asking states to monitor ambulance services including their refusal rates and time taken to bring patients to hospitals.

Last week, at a review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was decided to sharpen focus on ramping up tests and keeping the mortality rate low. Better hospital management, improved ambulance service and shorter triage period are some key parts of the government’s strategy to keep the mortality rate low.

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