COVID-19: Are private hospitals prepared?

Although the State government has roped in private hospitals and fixed rates for COVID-19 treatment, it appears that many hospitals are not yet prepared or willing to handle patients.

On Sunday, a 32-year-old cardiologist from Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences was refused admission in at least four private hospitals before he got admitted in the cardiac rehabilitation unit of Jaydeva institute, which is a non-COVID-19 hospital.

C.N. Manjunath, institute director, said the doctor went to at least four private hospitals after his test returned positive. “Some said they were full and others were reluctant to admit him. In one hospital, he was made to wait for three hours. Although private hospitals have agreed to join hands with the government, it is unfortunate that most are not prepared to admit COVID-19 patients,” he said.

Several private hospitals either do not have enough space to establish isolation wards for COVID-19 patients or do not have the required equipment and staff to handle cases, making segregation of patients a tough task. Moreover, some hospitals authorities The Hindu spoke to expressed fear that their general patient flow could be hit if they start admitting COVID-19 patients. Private doctors said there is a greater risk of infection spreading in hospitals if there is no proper segregation.

Vikram Siddareddy, general surgeon and chairman of United Hospital in Kalaburagi, said: “Involving private sector in handling the pandemic is the need of the hour. But, at the same time, it needs meticulous planning to create COVID-19 treatment space. Medical college hospitals are the best bet at present, since each one has over 6 lakh square feet of space compared to 6,000 sq. feet nursing homes.”

Admitting that it was a tough task, R. Ravindra, president of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), said hospitals need time to set up isolation wards.


Training needed

“We not only have to create isolation facilities but also plan staffing pattern with available staff. Staff shortage is an issue now. Although we are used to following infection control practices, we have to train our staff in COVID-19 protocols. We are not refusing treatment, but we will need some time to set up facilities,” he said.

Also, hospitals have to source PPE kits and stock up other paraphernalia. “Although PPE kits are available, it will take at least five days for the orders to be delivered,” he said.

Urgency due to surge

Sources said private hospitals had asked the government to give them at least 10 days to prepare before opening up COVID-19 treatment. “But with the continuous surge in cases, roping in private hospitals now has become inevitable,” sources added.

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Sagar Biswas

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