Three days after the Health and Family Welfare Department asked private hospitals to set aside 10 beds for admission and treatment of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV), many hospitals are reluctant to do so.
While four hospitals have agreed to set up the isolation wards and one of them — Manipal Hospitals — has already done so, most are not coming forward as the managements are worried that isolation wards, especially for coronavirus, may deter patients with other ailments from seeking care, sources said. Although an official communication from the Health Department said that 10 private hospitals have been identified, B.G. Prakash, State Joint Director, Communicable Diseases, said they were yet to confirm their willingness to set up the wards in writing. “As of now only Manipal Hospitals has set up a ward, and we have inspected it,” he said.
Dr. Prakash, who is the State nodal officer on 2019-nCOV, said the department cannot force hospitals to set up isolation wards. “We can enforce it under the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act only if the outbreak is declared as a public emergency in the country. It has been only three days since we asked them to set aside 10 beds. They need time to identify and set up the wards. We hope more hospitals will come forward in the coming days,” he said.
R. Ravindra, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said smaller hospitals were not geared up to handle the situation. “Large hospitals can identify a portion or a floor for an isolation ward, but it may be difficult for smaller hospitals as their staff are not trained in managing isolation wards, especially if there is an outbreak of an infectious disease,” he said.
Meanwhile, with the Health Ministry modifying the admission and discharge guidelines in isolation wards, seven patients who had been quarantined at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases were discharged on Thursday even before their test reports arrived.
Institute director C. Nagaraja said that according to the new guidelines, only those who have come directly from Wuhan city in China, where the virus first surfaced, and have flu-like symptoms should be quarantined. “Those who have travelled from other cities in China and have symptoms can be put under home isolation for 28 days under the supervision of surveillance officers. So, we discharged seven patients on Thursday and advised [them] to strictly be under home isolation for 28 days,” he said.
“Apart from this, one patient has sought referral to a private hospital. With this, we have only two patients in the ward now. Although eight more persons self-reported to us on Thursday, we have taken their samples and sent them home as they are clinically stable and have only mild symptoms,” Dr. Nagaraja said.
Following a positive case detected in Kerala, the Union Cabinet Secretary on Thursday held a video-conference meeting with Chief Secretaries of all States to review the status of preparedness.
Apart from five beds each that have been identified at Jayanagar General Hospital and Epidemic Diseases Hospital in Bengaluru, five-bed wards have also been identified in all district hospitals. Besides, the National Institute of Virology, Bengaluru unit, and the Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute will be activated for testing of coronavirus within the two days, said an official note.