Private sector to help in surveillance, isolation amid coronavirus outbreak
With surging cases and two confirmed deaths in the country, the Centre must speed up partnerships with the private sector to ensure India has the capacity needed for quick diagnosis and treatment in isolation. Last week, the health ministry met representatives form major private hospitals, diagnostic centres and industry bodies to identify how best to utilise private sector resources in disease management.
“We have received advisory from the government to create isolation facilities in case the number of cases goes up. We have identified 12 beds in the isolation facility that was used during the H1N1 outbreak. We are ready, but right now, I do not think there are enough cases to warrant the involvement of the private hospitals but preparedness is there,” said Dr DS Rana, chairman, Board of Management, Sir Gangaram Hospital.
The Delhi government has tied up with six private hospitals in the city to increase the number of isolation beds. There are currently 189 isolation beds in 27 hospitals in Delhi, according to the state government. “It can be scaled up quickly, if needed,” Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain had told HT.
With private players taking care of 60% of the country’s in-patient requirements, this is a good move, experts say. “This is a move in the right direction. I have always been an advocate of better utilisation of the private resources for elective procedure. It is essential in a war-like situation, and this is a war-like situation. As for the cost, at the moment those taken to private hospitals must have insurance or would have agreed to pay, but if there is an increase in the number of cases where the government has to utilise private hospitals, it must reimburse the cost of treatment,” said Dr MC Mishra, former director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
“Some private hospital may keep patients in isolation wards without payment, but it would depend on the number of people they treat and the kind of treatment needed. In 80% of the cases, it is just mild symptoms such as cough and cold, so no treatment is needed as such,” he said.
“The idea is to pool in collective resources and build on the strengths to work towards shared goals in public interest. It is time for public and private sectors to come together and work as an alliance in the spirit of collaboration and coordination for collective efforts towards Covid-19 management,” said Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, stressing the need for preparation for a sudden surge in numbers.
“This is in preparation for surge capacity. In case, the numbers shoot up suddenly. Currently, the government said that their hospitals have enough capacity,” said representative from one of the hospitals present in the meeting, on condition of anonymity.
“Right now, they are looking at quarantine facilities for evacuees still being brought in,” the representative said.
In NCR, Medanta-The Medicity has 14 Italian tourists who tested positive for Covid-19. “They are all asymptomatic and non-infective,” said Medanta chairman and cardiac surgeon Dr Naresh Trehan.
“The government needs volunteers on the ground for checking and streamlining the process of screening and testing. Also, if an overwhelming number of contacts is discovered, the government has asked the private sector to designate isolation wards,” he said.
“The government wanted to ensure that the isolation setups in private hospitals are ready and private players help in improving the on-ground surveillance, airport screening and contact tracing at the local level. Private hospitals have also been asked to educate patients and their families about the new viral disease,” said an official from the health ministry, on condition of anonymity.