India May be in Stage 3: COVID-19 Hospital Task Force Convener
We are calling it Stage 3. Officially, we may not call it. It is the beginning of the 3rd stage.
This was the claim made by Dr Girdhar Gyani, the convenor of the Task Force for COVID-19 Hospitals, in an interview to the to The Quint. Gyani attended a meeting of prominent doctors and healthcare providers chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, 24 March.
Community transmission is the most critical stage during an outbreak. At this stage, an epidemic can spread fast in the community and it gets difficult to trace the original source. Gyani, who said that the coming five to ten days would be essential to control the epidemic because all those who are asymptomatic now, might start showing symptoms.
“We are running short of time in preparing COVID-19 hospitals as the outbreak in India can happen any day in coming weeks and we do not have enough trained medical staff and COVID-19 hospitals yet,” he further added.
He also pointed out that the government is still following the old stringent policy when it comes to conducting coronavirus tests, and this needs to change urgently.
“The government is testing only those who have all three symptoms together, coughing, breathing problem and fever. If the patient is having only one of the symptoms then they will not be tested.”
‘Govt Does Not Have Enough Testing Kits’
Here are a few questions that Gyani answered for The Quint:
So if a person only has fever then he/she cannot get COVID-19 test done?
No, they (doctor) will tell you to go to a private or government hospital and take fever treatment.
But then the person could be infected?
Yes, he could be. The point is, they (government) fears that these unsure cases might consume all the testing kits. That’s why they are not doing enough COVID-19 tests.
Does the government not have enough testing kits?
Dr Gyani pointed out that the government needs to restrategise and not test only those showing all the symptoms if it is serious about breaking the chain of transmission.
The government has established 118 testing labs, which have a capacity to conduct 15,000 tests every day, said Gyani. Apart from this, 16 private labs are also operative and more are being added every day.
In the meeting chaired by PM Modi, a decision was taken to convert government hospitals into COVID-19 hospitals with the help of private hospitals that can supply medical equipment and trained doctors and medics.
“The challenge to my mind is that first we have to identify COVID hospitals and then train nurses and medics and co-workers. Some medical college hostels were asked to vacate. To that the prime minister said why should they vacate, in fact the final year students should remain in the college so that they can help during emergency. The final year students can be given certificate and deployed in COVID hospitals with little bit of training.”
Dr Girdhar Gyani
‘We Are Running Out of Time’
The government plans to set up a minimum of 600 beds in small districts and a minimum of 3,000 beds in COVID-19 hospitals in metropolitan cities like Delhi.
How many hospitals would be required in India?
Let’s say we have a 3 crore population of Delhi, we said we should keep at least 3,000 hospital beds ready. And separate COVID-19 centres would also be required for those who are to be kept in quarantine or those who have recovered from the coronavirus infection. Such centres can be made by converting guest houses and hostels.
‘Transportation of Patients a Big Worry’
But how will the government handle villages and small towns?
In a place like Bijnor in UP, keeping in mind the population, one would need 600 beds. But there are no 600-bed hospitals, only small hospitals exist. So one has to pool so many hospitals together. And one has to ensure that proper transportation arrangements are done to shift patients. That is one important exercise and this is one of the recommendations I have made.
Don’t you think time is really short? Aren’t we running out of time?
I said the same thing in the meeting to the prime minister.
The first coronavirus case was reported on 30 January. The government had enough time to prepare itself for the pandemic.
Now, that we have stepped into stage 3 as claimed by Dr Gyani, the big question is, do we have enough time to control the spread of the disease?
Dr Girdhar Gyani, founder of Association of Healthcare Providers, participated in a meeting of healthcare professionals with Prime Minister Modi on 24 March in the capacity of a convenor of task force on COVID-19 private hospitals created in response to an initiative by NITI Aayog.
He’s an engineer holding a PhD in Quality Management.
(Note: This story, first published on 26 March, 2020, was updated on 27 March, 2020. The article was edited for clarity.)
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