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Private hospitals can't refuse critical patients or insist on testing all for COVID-19: Centre

In a letter written to state chief secretaries, Union health secretary Preeti Sudan said the government had received reports that many private hospitals are hesitating to provide critical services

Published: 28th April 2020 07:22 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th April 2020 07:27 PM   |  A+A-

Medical staff at the COVID-19 hospital in Vijayawada on Sunday.

Representative image (Photo I EPS/P Ravindra Babu)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Amid complaints that a large number of private hospitals across India are either refusing critical patients or have been shut, the Centre on Tuesday asked states to ensure that hospitals keep functioning and also do not insist on COVID-19 tests for every patient needing hospital care.

In a letter written to state chief secretaries, Union health secretary Preeti Sudan said the government had received reports that many private hospitals are hesitating to provide critical services such as dialysis, blood transfusion, chemotherapy and institutional deliveries even to their regular patients either due to fear of contracting COVID-19 or because they are not functioning.

“It is also noticed that at many places, hospitals and clinics are insisting on COVID-19 tests before providing services,” Sudan’s letter said.

The letter said it must be ensured that all the health facilities, especially those in the private sector, remain functional during the lockdown and provide critical services to needy patients.

The Centre also made it clear that COVID-19 testing should be carried out only under the Indian Council for Medical Research protocols which allows testing of those who have a history of international travel and develop symptoms, close contacts of those who have tested positive, healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, patients hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses and individuals with influenza like symptoms in hotspot areas.

“Instead, the healthcare providers may be advised to take necessary precautions for personal protections as per the ministry’s guidelines,” the health secretary said.

The letter referred to the guidelines issued to states on April 20 which had said that there should not be disruption in essential health services such as reproductive and child healthcare, immunization, communicable diseases such as TB and leprosy and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and kidney ailments requiring dialysis.

The government had also issued a standard treatment protocol for services such as dialysis, blood donation and transfusion last week.

It had, however, asked hospitals to defer elective medical procedures and encouraged the public to use telemedicine services as far as possible during the lockdown period.

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