PUNE MP Girish Bapat has raised the issue of underutilised beds at various departments in government-run medical colleges and hospitals that can be used as exclusive zones for Covid-19 patients.
Bapat told The Indian Express that the concern over underutilised beds was raised by district administration officials, who were in the process of increasing bed capacity anticipating a rise in the number of positive cases. Pune is slowly inching towards a total of 70,000 positive cases, and has reported more than 1,670 deaths.
Bapat said at this time of a medical emergency, there was a need to temporarily suspend mandatory regulations for the maintenance of departmental wards at hospitals attached to medical colleges.
He added that he had written to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan about the issue. “I will also be in Delhi on July 28 and will take it up with concerned authorities,” Bapat told The Indian Express.
For instance, according to minimum standard requirements for medical colleges (for admission of 150 students annually) as prescribed by Medical Council of India (MCI) – amended till January 2018 – a 650-bed hospital attached to a government medical college can currently admit 150 Covid patients in the general medicine ward and 20 patients in the tuberculosis/pulmonary medicine ward. Though the remaining 480 beds may be vacant, the hospital and medical college authorities would neither be able to admit Covid-19 patients nor be able to transfer staff to treat them for fear of losing recognition from the MCI.
“District administrations across the country have requisitioned hospitals attached with medical colleges for treating seriously ill patients of Covid-19. Such hospitals also have doctors who practise different specialties and can also take care of Covid-19 patients. While hospitals have designated their general/internal medicine and pulmonary medicine wards along with ICUs (intensive care unit) as Covid-19 wards, the number of beds available has dwindled,” Bapat has written to the Union health ministry.
He has pointed out that hospitals attached to medical colleges are unable to admit more patients despite having vacant beds as they fear losing recognition from MCI for failing to adhere to stipulations.
Highly placed officials at Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) told The Indian Express that MCI recognition was important and an entire compendia has been compiled on how to set up a Covid-19 hospital so that there is no transfer of air from Covid to non-Covid areas.
Medical colleges are bound by the MCI Act and while there are 22 faculties as per norms, there is a minimum number of beds for minimum number of seats. While the MCI had, as per highly placed sources, denied cent per cent conversion of department-wise beds to Covid wards, the council had allowed 50 per cent conversion to Covid wards and TB, medicine, skin, infectious diseases, intensive care, and trauma care wards were also used for Covid-19. The DMER, however, strongly resisted the move to convert the entire government hospital for Covid-19 patients in Mumbai and Nagpur.
“We raised the issue with senior authorities so that there could be a smooth transition of non-Covid department-wise beds to Covid, without affecting treatment of non-Covid patients,” said Ayush Prasad, CEO of Pune Zilla Parishad.
Disaster management ward reopened for Covid patients at Sassoon
As much as the administration is trying to scale up infrastructure by converting medical colleges, the city is also likely to see a rise in cases of vector-borne diseases and influenza after the lockdown, and an increasing concern has been felt across medical colleges and attached hospitals over whether these establishments can be turned into exclusive Covid-19 treatment zones. With more than 700 non-Covid patients admitted to Sassoon General Hospital and a daily out-patient department of more than 400, authorities have reopened the disaster management ward with 60 beds for Covid patients.
Authorities also said in association with College of Engineering Pune, they were working on old buildings to improve ventilation and ensure that Covid patients could get better oxygen flow.
They also said patients from the psychiatry ward were moved to the regional mental hospital at Yerwada, while patients at the ophthalmology ward were moved to other wards.
At D Y Patil Medical College and Hospital, 300 beds will be dedicated to Covid-19. At Kolhapur, CPR Government Medical College had 650-bed hospital, which will now be used for Covid-19 treatment, authorities said.
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