Need 150k beds, looking to scale up capacity: CM

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Delhi will need 150,000 beds by the end of July if its hospitals are to also treat coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients from other states, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Wednesday, even as he promised to implement “in letter and spirit” Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s order overruling the Delhi government’s decision to only allow Delhi residents to be treated in government and private hospitals in the state.

By July 15, Delhi will need 33,000 beds, and including those from outside the city, it will require 65,000, the chief minister added. “By July 31, 80,000 beds were projected for the people of Delhi. But now, we will need a total of 150,000 beds.”

His comments came against the backdrop of a sharp increase in the number of cases in Delhi. On Tuesday, the state added 1,366 news cases and on Wednesday, it added 1,501. Delhi’s dashboard on Wednesday night stood at 32,810 cases, with 12,245 recoveries, and 984 deaths.

Separately, Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain said there is community transmission in Delhi, repeating what he said on Tuesday, but added that only the Centre could declare this.

Referring to the Delhi data, Kejriwal termed the task of arranging over a 100,000 beds an “unprecedented and a huge challenge”. He asked neighbouring states such as Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to augment their health infrastructure to ensure that people from there do not have to come to Delhi for treatment.

Kejriwal emphasised that this was not the time to fight over differences and appealed to all political parties, religious institutions, doctors and the public to jointly fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He called for a people’s movement for promoting the wearing of masks and ensuring social distancing and personal hygiene for the purpose.

“The Centre has taken a decision and the L-G passed an order accordingly. There is no room for disagreements now. The decision of the L-G will be implemented in letter and spirit. There is no dispute on this subject anymore and I want to make this clear to everyone, including the members and workers of our own party [Aam Aadmi Party],” Kejriwal said at a digital press conference a day after he tested negative for Covid-19.

Later in the evening, he met home minister Amit Shah. “Met Sh Amit Shah, Honble HM. Discussed the situation on corona in Delhi in detail. He assured of all cooperation,” Kejriwal said on Twitter.

Baijal on Monday also restored national guidelines on who can be tested for Covid-19 in the Capital; the Delhi government had said only high-risk direct contacts of infected people would be tested if they were asymptomatic. The Delhi government’s orders on both testing and treatment created a huge controversy. On Wednesday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notice to the state government and the Union ministry of health for alleged mismanagement of the situation in the national capital. The notices were prompted by a complaint made by Congress leader Ajay Maken.

Kejriwal’s deputy, Manish Sisodia, had on Monday, in a digital press briefing, attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Baijal’s order and said the Centre must involve states in decision-making processes. He accused the BJP of pressurising the L-G into overturning their decisions.

On Tuesday, the deputy CM alleged that the L-G had no plan even after reversing the Delhi Cabinet’s decision to accommodate the huge influx in patients.

Baijal is the government’s administrative head and reports to the President. He is the topmost authority of the Delhi disaster management agency, which is coordinating all matters related to the pandemic. On Tuesday, his office issued a statement saying the L-G had clarified to Sisodia that right to health is an integral part of the right to life under the Constitution of India. Baijal had said that rather than “discriminating between patients, the goal of the government should be to plan and prepare for adequate infrastructure”. In his Monday order, Baijal acknowledged that Covid-19 has spread in Delhi “in threatening proportion”.

Kejriwal said he will soon begin inspections to monitor the arrangements. “I will get started on this and go to stadiums, banquet halls and hotels to make arrangements. We will try everything, do whatever we can to ensure enough hospital beds.”

A committee, which has been constituted under the chairmanship of divisional commissioner Sanjeev Khirwar to explore the possibility of creating additional bed capacity, has so far suggested that Pragati Maidan and Talkatora indoor stadium be used as makeshift hospitals.

On the basis of the current doubling rate of 12.6 days, the Delhi health department has projected that the number of active cases in Delhi will touch 60,004 by June 30; 134,722 by July 15 and 319,237 by July 31.

Kejriwal said the fight against Covid-19 has to be turned into a people’s movement. “We need to keep in mind three things: wearing masks, washing hands regularly and maintaining social distancing. People should encourage each other to follow this.”

Kejriwal added that 1,900 people have been hospitalised in Delhi government hospitals over the last eight days. He attributed most of the hospitalisations to the Delhi Corona App launched on June 2 to allow people to check availability of hospital beds on a real-time basis.

“... around 200 people [also] faced difficulty in getting beds. Nearly 4,200 beds are still vacant, but they are mostly in Delhi government hospitals. Private hospitals are mostly full. We are working on increasing the bed capacity in that sector,” said Kejriwal.

The Delhi government on Tuesday issued an order asking 22 private to increase the number of beds reserved for Covid-19 patients by 2,015. The capacity in these private hospitals has now gone up to 3,456 from 1,441 beds. With this, the number of beds has increased from 8,872 to 10,887 in Delhi.

The fatality rate in Delhi currently is 2.92%, which is higher than the national average of 2.81%. Delhi is conducting 13,433 tests per million as compared to the national average of 3,797 tests per million, according to government data. Till Monday, Delhi had conducted 266,156 tests.

Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta said that instead of complaining about the L-G’s decisions, the Kejriwal government should back his demand with data. “I demand that the chief minister release the detailed figures on how many Covid-19 patients from which states other than Delhi were treated in Delhi, how many of them recovered and how many died. They have just been raising this issue to hide their mismanagement of the pandemic,” he said.

Meanwhile, as anecdotes of hospitals overcharging patients continued to do the rounds, L-G Baijal said all major hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Delhi will have to display near their entrance, room charges and availability of beds on a real-time basis. In a directive issued to chief secretary Vijay Dev on Wednesday, Baijal also asked him to deploy officials to conduct surprise inspections in all hospitals to keep a check on malpractices such as overcharging or false refusal of beds.

Baijal also asked the health department to ensure that the data displayed on the boards near the entrance is reconciled with the data available on the Delhi Corona App and the web portal.

Dr Lalit Kant, the former epidemiology and communicable diseases head at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said it is not surprising that cases in Delhi have seen a spurt. “That’s what lifting the lockdown does. More people are bound to get infected. But, during the two-month long intense lockdown a lot of arrangements should already have been completed by the authorities. Now, the authorities must think on their feet and just go all out in expanding their health infrastructure,” he said.

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