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Hospitals can’t turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms, orders Centre

NEW DELHI: As the reports of people with symptoms of novel coronavirus being denied admissions by private hospitals in many parts of the country poured in, the Centre on Friday said no hospital — public or private — can turn away suspected COVID-19 patients. All hospitals in the country, government as well as private, have also been asked to set apart some beds and create isolation facilities. 

The case of a Maharashtra doctor, who suffered high-grade fever and breathlessness and was turned away from several private hospitals, which demanded the family first get a clearance that the patient doesn’t suffer from coronavirus, has evoked sharp reactions on social media. The doctor has no history of international travel or had not come into contact with any known case. The Centre has now said any suspected coronavirus infected person or pneumonia patient should be notified to the National Centre for Communicable Disease or the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme immediately so that they can be tested for COVID 19. 

The latest advisory by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also said that non-essential elective surgeries should be postponed and all hospitals should mobilise additional resources including masks, gloves and personal protection equipment. Healthcare personnel should be trained for dealing with any foreseeable emergencies, the advisory said. “We have shared the advisory with all states and asked them to get it followed by hospitals across India,” a senior health ministry official said. The Centre has also directed that hospitals must procure sufficient numbers of ventilators and high-flow oxygen masks in preparation for future requirements and must ensure that they have adequate trained manpower and resource pools for ventilator and Intensive Care Unit care.

Hospitals  have also been asked to ensure that stable patients are discharged as early as possible while further new admissions of non-emergency patients are also restricted and elective surgeries are deferred.  Also, number of patient attendants should be strictly restricted to one per patient only, the advisory said.
Hospitals have been asked to carry out a preparedness drill on March 22, guidelines for which have been issued. The ministry also said that all hospitals must provide treatment free of cost to any medical personnel who pick up infection while treating patients.