Telangana's private health system struggles to tackle the COVID-19 situation
For the past 48 hours finding a hospital bed for 72-year-old Rao’s family has become a nightmare.
Talking to The Lede, Rao's son Harish says, “For the past two days we have been trying to admit my father in a private hospital. My father is diabetic and a sinusitis patient. Due to sinusitis, he is suffering from cough and cold. As a safety measure, keeping his age in mind, we thought to keep him under medical supervision. But we couldn’t find any hospital willing to admit him.”
Harish adds, “I have taken my father to over 10 private hospitals but all of them have declined admission. Only one hospital has agreed to check my father. They scanned his lungs and suggested to get COVID-19 test done to rule out suspicion. Since yesterday I have been trying to get the COVID-19 test done in a private lab but there is huge waiting list, so I am waiting for our turn. If we want to get a test done in the government hospital, we have to get him admitted first. I am scared to admit my father as he will be prone to more infections because of their (lack of) cleanliness.”
Explaining the ongoing situation, a doctor who is currently working in a COVID-19 treatment ward in a private hospital says, “We didn’t expect this situation so early. This is purely the failure of the government. It is been 10 days since the government gave permission to conduct COVID-19 tests in private hospitals. Had they given this permission earlier, the situation wouldn’t have been this bad."
Requesting anonymity, the doctor says, “People are scared to get admission in government hospitals. We are seeing many posts on social media and news channels about the kind of treatment and cleanliness maintained by the government hospitals. Government representatives including MLA’s and Ministers themselves are not getting admitted in the government hospitals, then why would a common man do so? From the time we (private hospitals) started treatment we have seen a rush for admissions.”
The private hospital doctor alleges that there could be a misreporting of number of COVID-19 deaths in the state and also pointed out that a major trust deficit was building up between the people of the state and the authorities.
The doctor referred to an incident last Friday where a 26-year-old man from Hyderabad sent a selfie video from his hospital bed to his father minutes before he succumbed to COVID-19. The young man said in his video that he was feeling breathless after the government doctors had allegedly taken him off ventilator support.
A nurse working on special COVID-19 duty contract at a government hospital tells The Lede, “Compared to our neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, we are paid lower salaries. This discourages people from coming forward to go and work in remote places in the state on COVID-19 duty. I am getting good offers from private hospitals. And just like me, many of my colleagues are willing to go and work in private hospitals.”
Meanwhile government doctors say they are well equipped to handle the surge in cases. Dr Srinivas, a government doctor says “We have 3500 beds vacant in Government hospitals with full ventilator facility. We urge the public not to go to private hospitals and when they are getting the same treatment in government hospitals.”
“Private hospitals are exploiting people and charging lakhs for COVID-19 treatment. Many hospitals charge an advance payment of Rs 2 lakhs from patients at the time of admission. Even if there are no symptoms, the hospitals retain patients for 4-5 days and charge them lakhs of Rupees from them," adds Dr Srinivas.
COVID-19 tally in Telangana has crossed 15000 mark witnessing more than 900 cases per day on an average.
Talking to The Lede Dr.Sanjeev Singh Yadav, Secretary of Indian medical association, Telangana state agrees that government hospitals lack hygiene. “This happens due to huge footfall in government hospitals. Unlike private hospitals we don’t see strict security measures in government hospitals anyone can enter into the hospitals. Government has to take care of the security measures to maintain hygiene,” Yadav says.
He points out that “In terms of service, I would say government doctors and nurses are working for more hours than what they are supposed to do. There is a staff scarcity in government hospitals especially in class–4 since it has been a long time since the recruitment happened.”
“A retrospection has to be done by all the public representatives and government officials. If you yourself are not going to the government hospitals how can you expect a common man to go?” adds Yadav.
Blaming social media for adding to the panic, Yadav says, “In the present scenario due to social media people are unnecessarily panicking and rushing to a surgeon or a super-specialist. This creates a situation where people who are really in need of specialised care cannot avail hospital facility and those who don’t need hospitalisation are filling up hospitals.”