Union Home Minister Amit Shah made a surprise visit to the Delhi government’s largest dedicated Covid-19 facility on Monday, and offered suggestions such as increasing testing at the institute, making the admission process easier, installing CCTV cameras in each ward, and issuing ‘good health’ certificates upon discharge.
Shah’s visit to Lok Nayak Hospital around 4 pm came a day after he met with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to discuss the Covid-19 crisis in the capital, and hours after an all-party meeting with representatives of the AAP, BJP, and Congress in Delhi.
Shah was accompanied at Lok Nayak by AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, who has been appointed by the Centre to assess the state of the health infrastructure in the capital.
The 2,000-bed hospital in central Delhi was the first to be converted into a Covid-only facility, and has 763 patients at present. During his 45-minute visit, Shah interacted with doctors, nurses and other medical staff at the hospital.
“He was encouraging, and applauded our doctors and nurses for doing a commendable job. The morale of all healthcare workers is high after his visit. He has given several suggestions to make the admission process hassle-free, and to ensure that all the patients are discharged timely,” Medical Director Dr Suresh Kumar said.
“He also suggested that a ‘good health’ certificate should be provided to each patient after discharge. All suggestions were extremely positive, and we will definitely implement them in the coming days,” Dr Kumar added.
This was Shah’s first visit to a Delhi hospital since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. Over the next few days, three teams appointed by the Centre will visit all state-run hospitals to take stock of facilities.
Sources said the Delhi Chief Secretary, who accompanied Shah, was informed of the visit shortly before it began. Over the past three days, Shah has held several meetings with political and administrative units in the city, indicating the Centre’s inclination to get more involved in the capital’s Covid response.
“The Centre has indicated that with cases rising, it wants to be involved in the day-to-day decision-making. Delhi is the national capital and if the situation unravels here, it makes news even abroad. The Delhi government has given its full support to the Centre, considering the rate of spread, and the speed at which facilities need to be prepared,” a Delhi government official said.
Dr Kumar informed Shah that the hospital has provided dialysis to 1,040 patients, and that more than 100 deliveries have taken place even during the pandemic.
“Union Home Minister also directed the Delhi Chief Secretary that back-ups for canteens supplying food should be established so that if there’s an infection in one canteen, patients can continue to get food without disruption,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said.
“He also directed that psycho-social counselling of doctors and nurses should be done. This will ensure that not only are they physically but also psychologically fit to fight the pandemic,” the spokesperson said.
Following Shah’s visit, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said: “He scrutinised infrastructure and other medical arrangements at the hospital… He motivated doctors and told them to continue saving the lives of the people. He also told them to put out of their minds the news that appeared in the media a few days ago, and to concentrate on their duties. I believe his visit to the hospital is an independent initiative.”
Lok Nayak made headlines last week after the Supreme Court cited a report by a TV news channel on the conditions at the hospital, and pulled up the Delhi government over its Covid response.
At the all-party meeting earlier in the day, ways to increase testing for the novel coronavirus, use of new technology for spot testing, and the arrangements for larger numbers of isolation and oxygen beds were discussed.
The meeting, which continued from 11 am to 1 pm, was attended by Sanjay Singh, Delhi BJP chief Adesh Kumar Gupta, and Delhi Congress president Anil Chaudhary. Shah urged all parties to keep aside political differences and fight the virus unitedly.
Sources present at the meeting said caps on the cost of testing in private laboratories and treatment at private hospitals was discussed.
There was a proposal to create a “force of volunteers” consisting of those who have recovered from the disease, to help in hospitals and other places, Singh said.
Also discussed was the new rapid antigen detection test that was approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) late on Sunday evening. “This test will be available for Rs 450 and results will be known in 15 minutes,” Singh said.
The BJP’s Gupta said his party demanded that the cost of testing be halved from the present Rs 4,500. “This demand has been approved by the Minister,” Gupta said.
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