THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Lack of Covid-19 testing facilities in private hospitals is proving to be a major challenge for the state in its fight against the pandemic. Ill-prepared hospitals and clinics in the private sector are groping in the dark with more cases with untraced source of infection being reported everyday. Though the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) gave the nod for rapid antigen testing, the state is yet to get the kits from ICMR.
The VSSC employee who tested positive the other day had visited two private hospitals after experiencing a few symptoms. However, both institutions failed to take action as he neither had any travel history nor was he a high-risk contact. This laxity has raised concerns among the public and health workers in the private sector. It is learnt that the patient consulted a private clinic multiple times after having symptoms and later went to a private hospital, which send him home after prescribing medicines for flu and fever. This creates panic among people that private hospitals are unsafe.
Implementation of fool-proof testing guidelines and treatment protocol is yet to take place in many private clinics, which makes it difficult to properly guide and treat suspected Covid cases. Adding to the challenge is the lack of testing facilities in the private sector. The spike in influenza-like illness, fever and dengue cases is also causing trouble for private hospitals and clinics as they are unable to diagnose or segregate Covid-19 patients due to lack of testing facilities.
Indian Medical Association (IMA) south zone vice-president Dr N Sulphi said authorities should make available testing facilities everywhere. “It’s clinically impossible to identify a Covid-19 patient without proper testing. Every upper respiratory infection has symptoms similar to Covid-19, making it impossible to diagnose without testing. Now, only people with gross symptoms are getting referred to Covid-19 hospitals,” said Sulphi.
He said ICMR should set aside the existing rules and grant permission to hospitals to set up lab facilities. “ICMR has bypassed every rule for vaccine research. Similarly, the Directorate of Health Services should be made the authority for granting permission to set up lab facilities in hospitals,” said Sulphi. He said a large section of health workers have received training on how to treat Covid-19 patients.
Both the state and Centre are yet to come up with proper testing guidelines for private hospitals. The current guidelines recommend testing only for suspected patients or those with a travel history.
The District Medical Office (DMO) has imparted training to employees of 195 clinics and hospitals in the private sector. However, according to officials, the testing guidelines and treatment protocols are constantly evolving because this is a new pandemic and that is a real challenge for private hospitals, especially small clinics.
“From March, we have been giving intensive training in infection prevention control for private clinics and hospitals. A nodal agent has been deployed at each private hospital to deal with such cases and ensure the implementation of the guidelines. Separate training sessions have been held for paramedical staff, nurses etc. For major private hospitals, we are giving hands-on training,” said an official with the DMO. Special help desks have been set up at private hospitals and medium clinics. The desk aims at identifying suspected Covid cases and move them to isolation immediately, added the official.
‘Put in place a system to screen health workers’
“Every health worker should get tested at least twice a week. The government should make sure this is done, or else the situation will go out of control. The doctor who contracted the infection in Malappuram had met with hundreds of people. It’s high time authorities put in place a system to screen health workers,” said Sulphi.
Though the DMO has Covid-trained staff of 195 private clinics and hospitals, the constantly evolving pandemic guidelines makes it a real challenge for the institutions, especially clinics
adding to the trouble
The spike in influenza-like illness, fever and dengue cases is also causing trouble as hospitals are unable to diagnose or segregate Covid-19 patients due to lack of testing facilities