NEW DELHI: Hospitals across the capital continued to wilt under huge rush of dengue patients as an embattled Delhi Government directed all medical institutions to urgently increase bed capacity and employ more doctors and nurses to deal with the situation.
Chaos, unhygienic conditions and in some government hospitals, three patients were cramped on one bed due to unavailability of beds. A day after warning private hospitals of strict punitive action including cancellation of license if they refuse treatment to dengue patients, the government issued a "blanket order" empowering hospitals run by it to recruit more doctors and nursing staff.
As hospitals and nursing homes across Delhi were inundated with patients, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain directed private hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 10-20 per cent as soon as possible to treat patients affected by the mosquito-borne disease. The Minister said more dengue testing kits are being procured and private hospitals have been asked not to charge more than Rs 600 for the test which is free in government facilities.
There were long queues at Out Patient Departments and 'fever clinics', opened to treat dengue patients at government-run hospitals. Currently, the total bed capacity of city hospitals is around 50,000 which include 10,000 beds in Delhi Government-run hospitals and 20,000 in private hospitals. The hospitals run by municipal corporations and Centre have a capacity of 10,000 beds each.
"Private hospitals have been asked to increase capacity by 10 to 20 per cent. Even a rise of 2,500 in the number of beds in private hospitals would be a big jump," Jain said, adding Government-run facilities have been ordered to increase beds by 1,000 by Sunday.
He said all the hospitals have been told to also use the beds exclusively kept for disasters. "A blanket order has been issued giving hospitals powers to buy more beds, employ more doctors, nurses and paramedic staff depending on their requirement. All arrangements have been made to ensure best possible treatment to dengue patients," he said.
So far 11 people have died of dengue and over 1,900 have been affected by it. There has been widespread outrage in the city after Avinash Rout, a 7-year-old, and 6-year-old Aman Sharma died of dengue last week after allegedly being denied treatment by private hospitals. Avinash's parents committed suicide following his death. Insisting that government will not tolerate refusal of treatment by private hospitals, Jain said they must stabilise the affected persons and make necessary arrangements if there was no availability of bed.
Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said the present serotype of dengue virus is "less fatal" compared to the one in 2013 and appealed to people not to panic or force doctors to admit patients unless in urgent cases. IMA's Secretary General K K Aggarwal said only severe dengue cases need admission and most of the cases can be managed at the Out Patient Departments.
"There is no need of platelets transfusion unless a patient has active bleed and count of less than 10,000. Platelets counts by machine readings are not reliable and can have an error of upto 40,000. The reliable test is haematocrit and not platelet count. "Do not fill beds with patients not requiring admission. Make beds available for severe dengue cases," Aggarwal said.
The Delhi Health Minister also said patients should leave it to the doctors whether they need admission in hospital or not. "People are in panic and government is responding to the situation effectively. I appeal to people not to go for self medication and consult doctors if they have fever," he said, claiming there was no "dengue epidemic" in the city.
Asked whether Centre was unhappy with the Delhi government's handling of dengue crisis, Jain said Union Health Minister J P Nadda has praised the city government for the way it is tackling the situation. "I had spoken to him. There is no question of the Centre being unhappy. In fact they have praised our work," said Jain.
Yesterday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said his government was mulling bringing a law to enable temporary takeover of private hospitals during emergencies. The AAP government had also announced 1031 as dengue helpline yesterday to help people in getting treatment and answer their queries relating to the disease.
The Delhi Cabinet held an emergency meeting last evening which reviewed the deteriorating situation. It also explored various options to ensure that private hospitals do not refuse to admit dengue patients.
As a precautionary measure, Delhi government has directed all schools to ensure that children come to school dressed in full sleeves shirts, trousers and salwar kameez for the next one month as a preventive measure to avoid mosquito bites.