Union Minister Prakash Javadekar disclosed on April 22 that the government has passed an ordinance to protect medical staff, doctors, and all other frontline Covid-19 workers in the wake of the recent incidents of attacks on them. The people who attack or discriminate against corona warriors will face strict action, including a jail term ranging from 6 months to 7 years and a penalty up to Rs five lakh, depending on the gravity of the case. The same day, the Union Minister for Home Affairs, Amit Shah and Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harshvardhan interacted with doctors and senior representatives of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), through a video conference, in New Delhi.
Earlier, the Union government issued an advisory stating that no suspected Covid 19 patient should be turned away and asked hospitals to set aside “some beds” and to set up “isolation facilities”. It also asked that non-essential elective surgeries should be postponed in every public and private hospital.
Survival of hospitals
However, what the government seems to have overlooked is that this has raised a question mark on the survival of private hospitals because of declining footfalls, costs of creation of infrastructural changes for separate isolation wards, expenses on PPE kits etc. Also as per the guidelines, patients with high risk are to be put in separate wards.
To find out how it has impacted private hospitals, Tehelka contacted enlisted private hospitals in Panchkula. Surprisingly, except Alchemist Hospital, no private hospital had by far admitted any Covid-19 patient.
CEO of Ojus Hospital, Dr. Harish Gupta told on phone that “revenue decline was about 65 per cent ever since coronavirus pandemic spread”. He said that patients are scared to go to multi speciality hospitals fearing getting infected. Similarly there are apprehensions that if an infected patient comes to the hospital, the entire hospital may get infected. Also the “hospital staff was scared of getting infected and many of them were trying to go on leave on one pretext or the other”. He added that the hospital had equipped the frontline staff with adequate PPE kits masks and sanitizers. Not only that, the Ojus hospital has offered hostel facilities to staff.
Little doubt that private hospitals are struggling to survive. Another reason that every patient who comes to the hospital has to be tested for Covid-19 and the doctors, who see the patient, have to wear PPE assuming that the patient is Covid-19 positive. Hospital expenses have shot up during this period. Also when doctors, nurses and other staff is quarantined after treating a Covid patient, it again adds to costs.
Dr Harish Gupta confirmed that no Covid 19 patient had been treated at Ojus hospital so far. Another hospital at Panchkula enlisted for coronavirus treatment is Paras Hospital. It is learnt that even this Panchkula hospital has not admitted any covid patient. Calls to Paras Hospital MD and CEO, Dr. Dharminder Nagar went unanswered.
Alchemist comes to rescue
CEO of Ivy Hospital Dr. Viney Verma said that most hospitals were not Covid-19 ready. There was zero preparedness and most hospitals didn’t have even isolation wards. He said that in one case a corona patient was referred by government hospital in sector 6 Panchkula to the PGI Chandigarh. However, the PGI refused to admit that patient.
Finally it was Alchemist Hospital which started treatment of this patient Sonia Mahajan and her husband.
Dr. Verma said that hospitals had been hit hard because of the coronavirus as OPDs are not functioning. The government advisory makes it mandatory to refer even a patient with simple fever to government hospital. Now only few emergency surgeries are being conducted while elective surgeries have been put off.
An important aspect is frontline warriors. Like soldiers, health workers also face considerable mental stress. It is often forgotten that as humans, they feel the sorrow of loss when their patients succumb to the virus. They too have families, and so will also naturally be fearful that the virus might reach those they love most. COVID-19 will not be the last dangerous microbe we see. The heroism, dedication and selflessness of medical staff allow the rest of us a degree of reassurance that we will overcome this virus.