With Bihar seeing a massive surge in coronavirus cases over the past one month, the new Principal Secretary (Health), PRATYAYA AMRIT, spoke to SANTOSH SINGH about increasing the number of testing and beds with oxygen cylinders, as well as appointing doctors and winning back the confidence of the people. Excerpts:
What are your first few challenges?
I have visited two leading hospitals of the state — Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) and Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) — to get a first-hand understanding of the situation. I was dismayed at finding the relatives of patients inside the ward…. Under such circumstances, relatives are turning out to be super-spreaders.
We have now appointed an IPS and an IAS officer as nodal officers of the NMCH and PMCH, respectively, to ensure the standard operating procedure is fully followed. I have also taken stock of Bhagalpur Covid hospital as the district registered a surge of patients over the last three weeks.
There have been allegations of negligence by the NMCH administration, with some Covid patients missing.
We are installing CCTVs at all key points. The main gates of the hospital would not give access to anyone except patients. Relatives can consult the reception and control room. Patients and their relatives are assured of availability of oxygen cylinders and oxymeters inside the wards.
What is the state government doing about increasing the number of daily testing?
We have already taken the number of tests from 7,291 on July 1 to 35,619 on August 1. We aim at taking it to 50,000 tests per day…. It is very important to screen Covid suspects across the state to go about treatment.
What about increasing the number of beds with oxygen cylinders?
We have so far 12,000 plus beds with availability of oxygen. We have opened Covid care centres for the first level of treatment of mild symptoms, but these centres too have oxygen cylinders. Our objective is to increase beds with oxygen availability to 48,000 in the coming days as more testing would mean more patients. We are looking at our primary healthcare centres at block levels to deal with maximum cases. We are also providing four ventilators to each district hospital so that serious patients could be handled before they need to be shifted to dedicated Covid hospitals.
There is hardly any monitoring of patients in home isolation. What is the government doing about it?
We are engaging an agency along the pattern of Delhi to monitor patients in home isolation. The agency would call a Covid patient three times a day to take his/her temperature reading and ask about any breathing distress. In case of any problem, it will be the job of the agency to coordinate with ambulance services and hospitals. We are making every attempt to ensure that people do not panic and have trust in the system.
What about the acute shortage of doctors — a point highlighted by the Patna High Court?
We have started appointing 1,000 specialist doctors. We are now also taking help of medical students with primary level of hospitalisation of patients. While we will have to take due care of the health of our doctors and nurses, we are looking for every possible way to cut down chances of infection.
Most people don’t know what to do when a person contracts Covid-19.
While there will be a fully-operation control room in every district to tell people which hospitals to go to, we have launched an app, Sanjivan, that would give all kinds of information — from the nearest hospital, nearest testing centres to ambulance availability.
Recently, videos had emerged of bodies lying in hospitals.
We cannot comment on the authenticity of such videos… We have fixed a time limit to wrap a body to prevent infection. Even if relatives of patients do not turn up to receive bodies, the district administration would provide volunteers who would bury the bodies taking due care of sanitisation.
There have been complaints regarding some private hospitals fleecing Covid-19 patients.
Ideally, there should be a cap (on the charges). Private hospitals have their own rates depending on the quality of service they offer. But we can discuss the cap within a given administrative and legal framework.
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