Indian Govt asks public, private hospitals to set aside beds as cases rise


NEW DELHI: The Centre issued an advisory on Friday to all hospitals and medical education institutions — both public and private — asking them to set aside beds, prepare isolation facilities, procure sufficient numbers of ventilators, high-flow oxygen mass and mobilise additional manpower to step up combat readiness to take on Covid-19.

The measures come as cases continue to rise, though they are still not a surge or a spike, and reflect the government’s assessment that the healthcare system needs to be ready for a contingency of a large number of patients. Though there is no community spread yet, medical facilities are being prepped for such a scenario and to also ensure a more even distribution of resources across the country.

Officials said the government was taking focused steps to ramp up preparedness in terms of capacity-building and procurement of essential items. So far, 19,111 isolation beds have been reserved in public and private hospitals, up from around 17,000 till the first week of March. Similarly, ventilators have been increased by 2.5 times since January and around 60,000 quarantine beds earmarked across the country.

Hospitals have been advised not to turn away any suspected Covid-19 patient and that such an admission should be notified immediately along with all pneumonia patients. Such patients can be tested for Covid-19 as well.

So far, the government’s testing protocol was limited to those who had travel history to Covid-19 affected countries or those who had come in contact with such people. “The medical infrastructure in the country needs to be prepared for any possible influx of patients on account of Covid19,” the advisory, issued late on Friday evening, said.

The measures have been proposed up to March 31 and will be reviewed. It was also said that all hospitals will carry out a preparedness drill on March 22 — the day of the “janata curfew” called by PM Narendra Modi — and the health ministry has issued detailed guidelines.

The advisory is intended to address concerns that the health infrastructure may struggle to tackle the burden if more severe cases are diagnosed and to maintain the edge gained by a series of proactive steps that have been taken to substantially shut down the borders for a large section of travellers.

The health ministry reported 223 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, recording a significant jump of 50 cases since Thursday. The 223 cases include 191 Indian nationals and 32 foreigners. The cases are among more than 14,000 tests conducted to check on people suspected for the disease.

So far, 173 Covid-19 cases have been hospitalised. While 23 of them were cured, four deaths were reported. The advisory also asked hospitals to discharge stable patients at the earliest and restrict further admissions.

“Some beds should be set apart and prepared for creating isolation facilities in every public and private hospital. All hospitals should mobilise additional resources including masks, gloves and personal protection equipment. Healthcare personnel should be trained for dealing with any foreseeable emergencies,” the advisory said.

All hospitals must ensure that they have adequate trained manpower and resource pools for ventilator and ICU care, it added. The advisory included various other preparedness measures for indoor facilities, out-patient departments, administrative as well as for communication and awareness activities.

Besides banning export of personal protective equipment like masks, the government has also identified manufacturers and placed orders for additional procurement. The government maintained that as the burden was rising progressively, it was important to break the chain of transmission by strictly following social distancing protocols.





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