Hospitals in Delhi have started refusing or postponing regular surgeries and health services as they have reserved 40 per cent of their beds for Covid-19 patients following the Delhi govt order after a sudden surge in daily active patients.
Though hospitalisation is extremely low in Delhi despite touching the daily Covid numbers to around 20,000 yet the state government has taken a precautionary measure to avoid a situation it witnessed during the second wave of Covid-19 in April and May last year.
Even hospitals under the Union Health Ministry have imposed restrictions on regular operations and OPD services.
“My doctor in AIIMS has advised me to postpone a planned surgery of Hernia due to Covid-19. I was told that many doctors are down with the infection. Also, they are expecting more Covid-19 patients so they are keeping beds and services reserved for them I believe,” a 55-year-old patient who belongs to Patna, said. He has been in Delhi for the past one week and now he doesn’t know whether he should wait or go back home.
“I don’t know how long it will take to normalise the situation. Some doctors advise me that things will come under control by the end of this month or early next month,” he said.
Residents’ Doctors Association (RDA) of AIIMS, Delhi has also opposed the hospital administration’s order to vacate the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre and shift all the patients to the main AIIMS building by Monday.
The entire trauma centre will now be dedicated to Covid-19 patients. The AIIMS RDA says that when the government had taken a similar decision in the previous wave, it had caused a huge inconvenience to trauma patients.
“…We have seen in last two waves of Covid, the cases of trauma are also not decreasing. With the conversion of the JPNA trauma centre to Covid centre, it is expected for the trauma patients to suffer a lot again. Most of the victims of trauma are of young age, who are the sole breadwinners of their families,” the letter addressed to the Director, AIIMS said.
It added, “In such a situation, along with Covid, trauma services should also not be ignored.” A doctor working in the trauma centre said that they have already started telling trauma patients to look for another hospital as they will not have capacity after shifting to the main building.
Health experts say that both the state government and the Centre didn’t learn any lesson from the previous waves. They say that if the government has to deprive the regular patients to provide services to Covid patients, this is a wrong approach.
“Making one person suffer to give services to another person doesn’t make sense. If a trauma patient has to run from one hospital to another as it happened in the previous wave, then it shows that we haven’t learnt how to manage resources during the pandemic from the two previous waves,” a senior doctor from AIIMS Delhi said.
He added, “Disturbing regular health services would have been the last resort that too in a graded manner. First, they should have made functional the make-shift hospitals and admitted Covid-19 patients there. Reserving 40 per cent bed doesn’t make any sense when there is hardly any increase in the hospitalisation cases.”
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who has been fighting against the malpractices in the health care system alleges that whenever the government issues an order to reserve beds in hospitals, private hospitals reserve all such beds which are covered under EWS (Economically Weaker Section) quota. So, poor patients suffer and run from one hospital to another for surgeries and treatments.
“The bed reservation order is illegal, irrational and arbitrary. You cannot risk the life of one person to save the other. If the government has to create facilities for Covid-19 patients, it should make additional arrangements. It can let non-covid patients die. Neither the state nor the Centre has learnt any lesson from the two previous waves,” he said.
Many health experts say that the current wave is mild and the majority of patients don’t’ need hospitalisation. They say that despite a sudden surge in cases, beds are vacant and Covid-19 patients are not coming as it happened in the second wave.
“I think it is a knee-jerk reaction based on the media reports that are creating panic. There is not a single patient on the oxygenated beds in a majority of hospitals. They are lying vacant and genuine patients have to suffer,” a doctor in Safdarjung hospital said.