As Delhi govt looks for beds for Covid-19 patients, MCDs say their 8 hospitals ...

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While the Delhi administration is working on identifying spaces that can be converted into makeshift hospitals, seven hospitals, with more than 2,800 beds collectively, have stayed off the government’s radar. These hospitals are run by the three respective municipal corporations in the city, which have claimed that there has been a lack of support from the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government.

The government has, however, hit back, saying there has been a “lack of will” on the civic bodies’ part.

The north, east and south civic bodies together run eight hospitals. Only one of them — Tilak Nagar Super Speciality Hospital — has been declared a Covid-19 hospital so far.

Officials from the government and the north corporation also said talks are on to covert the 980-bed Hindu Rao hospital in north Delhi into a dedicated Covid hospital. “It generally takes four to five days to convert a hospital into a dedicated Covid facility. The entire building has to be sanitised, admitted patients have to be shifted to other hospitals, isolation wards have to be made and ventilator systems have to be streamlined. We expect the hospital to be ready by June 18 to begin taking Covid-19 patients in,” said a senior hospital official.

Political representatives of the three civic bodies had on Thursday held a joint press conference, and said they were ready to “hand over” their hospitals to the government to be declared dedicated facilities to treat patients who contract the infectious disease.

“We are ready to give our facilities, like Hindu Rao and Kasturba hospitals, to the government so they can be developed as dedicated Covid-19 units and better treatment is provided,” said Jai Prakash, standing committee chairperson, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

The Delhi government on Friday responded saying the civic bodies do not need approvals from them to start treating Covid-19 patients in their hospitals.

“The MCDs are within their rights to proactively make decisions, declare their hospitals dedicated Covid facilities, or reserve a certain percentage of beds for Covid patients. It is surprising they have not done it so far. We have not taken over any hospital run by the Central government. They are treating Covid-19 patients on their own. Similarly, the municipal corporations are expected to do so on their own. They don’t need an order from the Delhi government,” said a media advisor to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

A senior official of the SDMC, the civic body that runs the Tilak Nagar hospital, said the Delhi government took over the facility earlier this week.

“We have six Covid-19 patients in the hospital now. They were sent by the government five days ago,” the official said.

When asked why the 70-bed hospital has such a low occupancy rate, the corporation said the hospital is still not available as an option in the government’s Corona App or the delhifightscorona.in dashboard.

Documents with the SDMC showed that the said hospital did not have any beds equipped with oxygen support and ventilators, nor did it have any ICU beds. An official in the hospital, however, said the equipment is to be provided by the Delhi government. A senior Delhi government official said that whenever government takes over any hospital in such a crisis, it arranges for resources required at the facility.

A top official in the north corporation said, “Civic bodies have not been able to open up their health infrastructure for Covid patients because of our poor financial situation. It is so bad that we have not been able to pay salaries to our health care workers and teachers, who distribute rations in schools,” the official said, asking to stay anonymous.

“We have inadequate equipment. Five of the eight hospitals do not have ventilators and ICU beds. We will need a lot of support from the Delhi government before we can begin to admit Covid-19 patients,” the official added.

Earlier this week, resident doctors of Hindu Rao and Kasturba hospitals had threatened to tender mass resignations if they were not paid their pending salaries. Doctors at Hindu Rao have not been paid their salaries since February this year, while doctors at Kasturba Hospital have not been paid since March.

The Delhi Medical Association, with which the state government is holding meetings to discuss bed augmentation plans, said valuable resources are going unutilised because of political differences between the civic bodies and the city administration.

“There’s no doubt that trying to utilise the available resources — hospitals, to be precise — is the first thing any government should do. Plans such as taking over hotels, banquet halls and stadiums are capital intensive and setting up makeshift hospitals will take more time, compared to readying operational hospitals for Covid patients,” said Dr Girish Tyagi, president of Delhi Medical Association.

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