Arvind Kejriwal warns hospitals against ‘black marketing’

Arvind Kejriwal said the Delhi government would issue an order making it mandatory for hospitals to admit and treat patients who were in moderate to serious condition even if Covid-19 tests hadn’t been conducted on them or test results were still awaited.
In the past six days (Monday to Saturday) Delhi has seen an average of 1301(ANI)
In the past six days (Monday to Saturday) Delhi has seen an average of 1301(ANI)
Updated on Jun 07, 2020 01:22 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal served a stern warning to private hospitals on Saturday, accusing some of them of lying about the number of beds they had for patients of the coronavirus disease and promising tough action against health facilities that, he said, were engaged in extortionist practices during the public health crisis — comments that came against the backdrop of a spate of reports and social media posts detailing difficulties people faced in hospital admissions.

Kejriwal said the Delhi government would issue an order making it mandatory for hospitals to admit and treat patients who were in moderate to serious condition even if Covid-19 tests hadn’t been conducted on them or test results were still awaited.

By evening, the order was out mandating that “no patient who is having Covid-19 symptoms and is in moderate and severe category be denied admission on the pretext that the patient is not having Covid positive report.” All such patients should be kept in the Covid suspect patient area till the test report is received. “Accordingly, if found positive, then she/he shall be kept in the Covid hospital and otherwise transferred to non-Covid hospital for further management,” the order read.

The order starts off by admitting that “there has been a surge in the number of positive cases of Covid-19 in the past one week in Delhi, resulting in additional demand for hospital beds, consumables and infrastructure.”

In the past six days (Monday to Saturday) Delhi has seen an average of 1301 new cases a day. The city’s total n Saturday night stood at 27,654 cases, 16,229 active cases,10,664 recoveries, and 761 deaths.

The government will deploy a medical professional at all hospitals in the city to check the availability of beds and ensure patients are not denied admission on the account of what the chief minister called false refusal by hospitals.

“Not all private hospitals are bad. But there are a few that first refuse to admit a patient saying there are no beds and later, on insistence, ask for 5-8 lakh for admission. This is nothing but black-marketing of beds,” he said at a news conference by video link. “Please give me a few days. We will end this business of black marketing of beds.”

On Thursday, June 4, the Directorate General of Health Service of the Delhi government issued an order that asked “all private hospitals identified for the purpose of treating Covid-19 patients ... to provide ... their respective schedule of charges” by June 5.

Kejriwal’s warning came on the day Hindustan Times documented cases of patients who had been unable to find beds at hospitals in Delhi and Mumbai despite the insistence of government officials in both cities that there were a sufficient number of beds for treatment of Covid-19 patients.

And it came two days after the Delhi government issued an order asking hospitals to discharge mild or asymptomatic patients of Covid-19 within 24 hours as they are supposed to be either in home isolation or be sent to Covid care centres.

“It has come to our notice that many asymptomatic and mild symptom cases have been admitted in hospital facilities… Any mild or asymptomatic patient has to be discharged by the hospital within 24 hours of admission,” read the order dated June 4.

The Delhi government has been trying to reinforce hospital infrastructure for treatment of Covid-19 patients. On Friday, it directed five Covid-dedicated government hospitals to increase their bed capacity to 13,670, including 750 with ventilators, in three weekly phases to be completed by June 25. Earlier in the week, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said three more private hospitals will be converted into Covid-19 treatment facilities; he warned that hospitals with mixed use beds (20% reserved for Covid-19 patients) would be converted into dedicated facilities for treatment of the coronavirus disease if they didn’t comply with the rule.

The chief minister said that some private hospitals refused outright to accept Covid-19 patients. “A few hospitals are very powerful. They have contacts in almost all parties. But no matter what, you will have to take corona patients. That is non-negotiable. We had allowed you to build hospitals not to mint money, but to be at the service of the people of Delhi. No one will be spared and any non-compliance would attract strict action,” Kejriwal said.

Since Friday, the government has had meetings with the owners of at least 33 private hospitals in Delhi who were told not to deny admission to any serious Covid patients or suspected Covid cases.At these meetings, the hospitals were also given a chance to articulate the problems they faced that could be resolved through mutual agreement, Kejriwal said.

According to the government, as many as 1,100 new Covid hospital admissions have been recorded in the city since the Delhi Corona mobile application, which enables people to track the number of vacant hospital beds, was launched on Tuesday.

“The app, which is first of its kind in the world, has made hospitals more accessible. On Tuesday, when the app was launched, the Delhi government had 2,800 admissions in hospitals, maximum of which were in Delhi government hospitals. Today, 3,900 patients are admitted and mostly in private facilities,” Kejriwal said.

The app will be updated twice every day, once at 10am and then at 6pm.Kejriwal said that if the app showed that hospital beds were vacant, but hospital staff refuse admission, people can call on the helpline number 1031.

The chief minister also cleared the air about some private laboratories not conducting Covid-19 tests. He said that all Delhi government hospitals and most private ones have “flu clinics” where people can get Covid-19 tests done. Apart from those, the Delhi government has 12 testing labs.

“There are reports that testing is not happening in Delhi. This is not true. Delhi has 42 labs out of which only six labs are temporarily not operating because we have taken action against them for violating ICMR {Indian Council of Medical Research} guidelines. Is it wrong to take action against those who are not doing their jobs well during this pandemic? Delhi currently is doing the highest number of tests compared to all states,” he said.

As of Saturday night, 4,225 patients were being treated at the city’s hospitals and a total of 4,412 beds were vacant in government and private hospitals combined.

Government reports state that Delhi has one of the highest testing rates with 11,285 tests per million population, as against the national average of 3,291 tests per million.

Till Saturday, 246,873 Covid-19 tests had been conducted in Delhi, up from 241,693 on Friday and 236,506 on Thursday.

Cautioning people not to panic, Kejriwal said only those with mild, moderate, serious or severe symptoms of Covid-19 should get themselves tested.

“Those who are asymptomatic should refrain from testing. Because if they also start lining up for testing, then no matter how many centres we open, it will still not be enough. So, only symptomatic people should get Covid tests done,” Kejriwal said.

That’s a suggestion that goes against science which recommends that all asymptomatic people who have a high risk of infection (direct contact with an infected person; or who are health care or frontline workers) be tested simply because the chances of them infecting the most vulnerable (people with co-morbidities and senior citizens) is higher. Kejriwal himself, in early April, said Delhi would go for “mass testing like South Korea” did to halt the spread of the pandemic.

The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) issued a statement condemning “the way the CM warned the doctors and threatened the hospitals” over Covid-19 patients’ admissions and tests.

“Doctors who are serving the people of Delhi tirelessly from last two months in this pandemic, risking their lives, feel insulted by the way they are being treated. Hospitals are the backbone of healthcare and are serving the patients, Covid or non-Covid. They are being penalised and the government, instead of praising their efforts, is issuing new diktats daily,” said Dr BB Wadhwa, president of the DMA.

The association demanded the formation of a coordination committee that would look after all the health care facilities for management of the Covid-19 crisis. It also demanded adequate testing facilities for early detection and treatment and said every hospital or nursing home giving Coivd care should have its own dedicated testing lab facility.


    Sweta Goswami writes on urban development, transport, energy and social welfare in Delhi. She prefers to be called a storyteller and has given voice to several human interest stories. She is currently cutting her teeth on multimedia storytelling.

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