Ensure critical health services are not denied amid COVID-19 lockdown: Centre to states

Health Secretary Preeti Sudan asked the chief secretaries or administrators to allay the fears, alleviate uncertainty and to ensure that all health facilities remain functional.
Image of dialysis machines used for representational purposes.
Image of dialysis machines used for representational purposes.

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday asked all states and Union territories to ensure that health facilities, especially in the private sector, remain functional and those needing critical healthcare such as dialysis, blood transfusion and chemotherapy are not denied such services amid the ongoing lockdown.

In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, Health Secretary Preeti Sudan also drew attention to reports of many hospitals and clinics insisting on a COVID-19 test before providing services and asserted that any coronavirus test be conducted only as per the guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

While it is the need of the hour to keep the health systems in a state of readiness to surmount any possible surge in coronavirus cases, it is also important that the non-COVID essential services are also provided to those who need them, Sudan said.

The Health Secretary asked the chief secretaries or administrators to allay the fears, alleviate uncertainty and to ensure that all the health facilities, especially those in the private sector, both clinics and hospitals, remain functional.

It should be ensured that anyone needing any essential critical services, including dialysis, blood transfusion chemotherapy and institutional deliveries, is not denied such services, the letter said.

She said reports have been received in the ministry that many hospitals in the private sector are hesitating in providing critical services such as dialysis, blood transfusion, chemotherapy and institutional deliveries to their regular patients either on account of fear of contracting COVID-19 or they are keeping their hospitals or clinics closed.

"It is also noticed that at many places the hospitals/ clinics are insisting on a COVID-19 test before providing the services," the Health Secretary said in the letter.

"You would appreciate that for patients who need these critical services, it needs to be ensured that all the health facilities, especially those in the private sector continue to be functional and provide such services so that such patients do not face any hardships," Sudan said.

She also cited the Home Ministry order dated April 15 that provisioned that all health services should remain functional during the period of lockdown. "The Indian Council of Medical Research has issued guidelines for COVID-19 testing. These protocols may be widely disseminated among the healthcare service providers and it may be emphasized that testing for COVID-19 has to be as per the protocols," Sudan said.

Healthcare providers may be advised to take necessary precautions for personal protection as per ministry's guidelines on rational use of Personal Protective Guidelines, the letter said. Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control in Healthcare Facilities may also be widely disseminated among the healthcare institutions, both public and private, the Health Secretary said.

Noting that the Ministry has also issued guidelines to be followed on detection of suspect or confirmed COVID-19 case in a non-COVID-19 health facility, Sudan said these guidelines have been issued to facilitate continuance of services in such health facilities after disinfection as per the Standard Operating Procedures specified in the guidelines.

The enforcement machinery in the states and UTs may be suitably sensitized about these guidelines and may be directed that they are implemented in true letter and spirit to obviate the fear of closure of health facilities for prolonged periods of time.

The letter said that helplines set up by the States and UTs should receive grievances regarding denial of critical services especially on account of insistence on testing.

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