An auto-rickshaw ferrying three people stopped outside North MCD’s Hindu Rao Hospital earlier this week, one of the occupants a woman in her 30s crying out in pain. The two others, her relatives, paused momentarily at the gate before going inside to get a stretcher to carry the woman, Gulabi Kumari, to the casualty ward. On the way, her mask came off, and one of them struggled to adjust it while balancing the stretcher.
The 980-bed hospital, the biggest under the MCD with a staff of 600 doctors, 350 nurses and 300 allied workers, was turned into a Covid facility on Sunday.
When The Indian Express visited the hospital earlier this week, it found challenges that may stand in the way — when the woman came in for treatment, three doctors and a paramedical staffer wearing masks, but no PPEs. Ravi Kumar (22), one of Kumari’s relatives, said, “She complained of vomiting yesterday… we came at night but she was not admitted. We were asked to come today.”
One of the doctors said, “Ideally, the patient and their attendants should be screened first. If she has Covid symptoms, then the doctor should wear a PPE before treating her.”
“At the fever clinic, the infrared thermometer isn’t working. We had suggested that fever screening be done at the gates so that patients or relatives with symptoms are separated… but it hasn’t happened so far,” said the doctor.
The clinic for collecting Covid samples near the casualty ward was empty as well. “There are very few samples being collected for the past few days as some labs are shut,” added the doctor.
In the waiting area was Suresh Kumar (55), an Old Delhi resident who came for treatment for a dog bite. His wife Kaushal said, “We were given some medicines and injections. For those that were unavailable, we were referred to RML Hospital… we want to stay home at this time but have to move from one hospital to another.”
The MCD hospital was shut in April for a day after a nurse tested positive. Since then, 61 healthcare workers have contracted the virus. Amid claims of lack of PPE kits and salaries delayed for three months, hospital staff have an uphill road ahead.
Medical Superintendent of Hindu Rao Hospital, Anu Kapoor, said all arrangements would be made to turn the hospital into a Covid facility by June 16. She also said all medical staff are being given PPEs as per ICMR guidelines.
The hospital has 17 ventilators, 8 ICU and 4 HDU beds, and 250 beds with oxygen. However, of the 980 beds, 37 are unavailable due to a portion of the building being declared dangerous, said a North MCD official. North MCD standing committee head Jai Prakash also said all arrangements are being made. Director, Press and Information, North MCD highlighted another challenge: 209 patients currently admitted at the hospital will be shifted elsewhere.
“Modifications will be made in manpower deployment, infrastructure and facilities related to patient care and healthcare workers,” she said.
She also said sampling has started again: “It was stopped due to the email received from the IDSP, Delhi government, dated June 3. We were informed not to send samples to NCDC. However, in the interest of patient care, the hospital has started collecting and sending samples from June 14.”
On the thermal scanner not working, a senior official said: “As per the in-charge at the fever clinic, it was working till 4 pm (Friday). The battery may have been needed to be replaced, which has been done.”
A doctor said, “We hope our salaries will be paid now, else it will demotivate us even further.”
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