Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision that asymptomatic patients should not be tested for COVID-19 has drawn flak from several quarters including the medical community. At a time when the national capital continues witnessing an exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the decision to test only symptomatic patients has been severely criticised by experts.
Several highly respected doctors have publicly pointed to the critical need for a test to know whether a patient should be admitted in a designated COVID-19 ward/ICU or in a COVID-19 free area, whether a cancer patient should be given chemotherapy, whether a patient has comorbidities that necessitate hospitalisation even though they are asymptomatic, etc.
Medical experts have highlighted the importance of testing in surgical patients. According to a Lancet paper, the 30 day mortality in patients who tested positive for COVID-19 is 23.8%. Pulmonary complications occurred in 51.2% cases. Keeping this in view, experts say that it is catastrophic to operate without testing if the patient is COVID-19 positive.
Medical experts have also questioned the credibility of the ICMR guidelines on the basis of which the government had pulled up six laboratories for testing asymptomatic patients and delays in results. It has been pointed out that the ICMR guidelines have not been updated since May 18 and in the middle of increasing cases, selective testing will only add to the people’s distress.
However, despite such reservations, while addressing a press conference on June 6, the CM said that if all asymptomatic persons are being tested it will overwhelm the infrastructure. This statement has raised serious concerns about the government’s preparedness to deal with the pandemic.
The CM in the press conference also warned the private hospitals against demanding exorbitant rates for COVID-19 treatment and alleged that some are engaging in ‘black marketing of beds’. Kejriwal said that strict action will be taken against designated COVID-19 hospitals which are denying beds to patients who are either suspected or have tested positive for COVID-19.
In a meeting with the administrators of hospitals on June 5, it was decided that at least 20% beds in designated private hospitals be reserved for treatment of COVID-19 patients. However, if hospitals fail to follow the government’s directions, the CM warned that the hospital may be taken over by the government.
The Delhi government has also launched an app to make information about availability of beds and ventilators public. Since Tuesday, when the app was launched, the number of patients admitted in private hospitals have considerably increased to 1,100 out of total 3,900 admitted, the CM said in the press conference.
The government has also issued an order to appoint medical representatives at every private hospital designated for the treatment of COVID-19 patients to check false refusal and black marketing. The order further said that no suspects will be refused by private hospitals.