A DAY after it declared all nursing homes in the Capital with capacities of 10-49 beds as Covid-only, the Delhi government withdrew the order amid red flags from owners of such establishments, as well as apprehensions raised during a meeting on Sunday morning between Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Highly placed sources said it was suggested to the Delhi government during Sunday’s meeting that it should reconsider the order since it could lead to mixing of Covid patients with existing non-Covid patients at these nursing homes. Besides, such a move would also call for an upgradation of existing infrastructure at these facilities.
Speaking to The Indian Express during the day, owners and administrators of several nursing homes had raised reservations about the order — lack of trained staff, medical equipment and ICUs to cater to coronavirus patients; the fact that most such centres are located in residential neighbourhoods; and that many of the doctors are above 60.
Dr N K Aggarwal, 71, owner of the 14-bed Shubham Hospital in south Delhi’s Kalkaji, who lives on the hospital premises, said, “My wife and I have been running this hospital and we have been looking after emergency and routine care in the residential neighbourhood we are in. We don’t have an ICU or ventilators or trained staff for Covid patients. If the government wants, they should take over the hospital and run it, because I can’t do it,” Dr Aggarwal had said.
The government order issued to medical superintendents of all nursing homes on Saturday said that as per the Delhi Nursing Homes Registration (Amendment) Rules, 2011, they are required to provide assistance that is considered essential at the time of a natural calamity.
“In order to avoid intermingling of Covid and non-Covid patients in small and medium multi-speciality nursing homes, and also to augment the bed capacity for Covid patients, all nursing homes having bed strength of 10 to 49 beds are declared as Covid nursing homes,” the order said.
Nursing homes were required to turn themselves into Covid facilities within three days from Saturday, failing which action would have been initiated against them. Exempted from the order were nursing homes for eye and ENT, and dialysis centres and maternity homes.
Dr Anil Sabharwal, 65, paediatrician and owner of Sabharwal Hospital, a 30-bed facility in Old Delhi’s Darya Ganj that he runs with his gynaecologist wife, had said, “I don’t have a physician or an ICU facility right now. In the Walled City, there are limited facilities, and in the middle of the night if someone requires assistance, they go to the nearest nursing home. Where will they go if there is such an order?”
The order had come at a time when most small-scale hospitals and nursing homes were beginning to see OPD patients after temporarily suspending their out-patient service during the lockdown, which had caused a sharp fall in revenue.
Dr Vipin Talwar, medical director of a 30-bed hospital in West Delhi’s Tilak Nagar, said they had been struggling to pay rent over the past few months.
“Half of our staff had left for their hometowns during the lockdown and we are now facing a manpower shortage. Some hospitals in the area have put up boards saying they can’t take in patients due to lack of staff. The ones that remain are now worried about contracting the virus (after the order to convert them into Covid facilities) and having no financial support,” Talwar said.
Dr Girish Tyagi, president of the Delhi Medical Association that wrote to the government on Sunday seeking the withdrawal of the order, said, “These are small nursing homes located inside residential areas, mostly run by a husband-wife doctor couple living inside the premises… After the order came out, some residents went to the hospitals to tell them they should not convert it into Covid facilities. Most don’t have an ICU and ventilators.”
Dr Pawan Sharma, medical superintendent of Aakar Hospital in northeast Delhi’s Mandoli, said that while they want to extend all help to the government, they would not be able to turn away their existing non-Covid patients.
“These are patients who have been coming to us for 30 years. We delivered someone’s baby, or attended to them after an accident. How can we say no to treatment if they approach us?” he said.
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