Medica Group of Hospitals has recently increased the number of bed strength for Covid-19 patients from existing 80 to 120. Medica has also reduced the charges of Real Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) to Rs. 2400 per test. Dr. Alok Roy, Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals, spoke to BE’s Kuntala Sarkar regarding how the hospital is preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Q. How well is Medica equipped to combat Covid-19?
A. Medica is well prepared to combat Covid-19 with new hand-washing stations, thermal scanning stations, and the fever clinic set up. Personal protective equipment has always been available for the healthcare workers. We have gone digital with ‘Computers on Wheels’ (COWs) in the wards to enable tele-consultation for Covid-19 positive patients. It is a virtual screening at the ER for the less critical patients to decrease physical visits in the OPD clinics. Wards have been reassigned and refitted to function as ICUs, negative pressure systems have been installed, and anterooms have been created. Social distancing is maintained in the hospital by demarcating spots on the floor where patients must stand, blocking out chairs and by removing and rearranging chairs.
Our healthcare workers have undergone repeated training on Covid-19 in addition to their regular training. We look forward to making inroads into robotics, cloud computing, and IoT in the not so distant future.
Q. How are the doctors of Medica equipped to treat patients with serious respiratory issues?
A. About 20% of all patients who are infected require hospitalisation. Half of them require some amount of oxygen support by normal masks. The other half develops severe viral pneumonia that can progress to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). They require maximum respiratory support and early oxygenation. This is made possible by the more than adequate number of high flow nasal oxygen (HFNO) devices and mechanical ventilators we have at our disposal.
Our doctors had success with prone (placing the patient on their belly) ventilation. Highly skilled ECMO (Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) team is equipped to support the severely critical patients who cannot oxygenate their own blood.
Q. Do you think the allocation for healthcare in the government stimulus was enough?
A. The allocation for healthcare in the government stimulus feels inadequate when compared to the expenditure in terms of training, protective equipment, infrastructural changes and keeping up staffing when hospitals across India are running at a loss. We have an expectation of fiscal support - clearing of long standing claims held back, a line of credit to help continue paying the salaries of the hospital employees. We also expect protection of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers from the stigma of taking care of Covid-19 patients and from angry mobs.
Q. With the absence of patients other than Covid-19 impacted patients, private hospitals are facing a huge loss. How are you planning to overcome this?
A. Private hospitals have been facing huge losses - as a majority of elective surgeries and seemingly minor medical treatments have been put on hold. While this change in health seeking behavior has been concerning fiscally, the possible ill-effects to the patients’ health is another major worry.
As patients realise that Medica is taking all necessary steps to keep them safe, a majority of the elective surgeries will be rescheduled. One of the challenges at that point will be to scale up the capacity of hospitals to perform surgeries. Additionally, as teleconsultations are accepted more and more by both doctors and patients, the ability of hospitals to treat medical cases and make up losses will improve.
Q. What is your opinion about the present Covid-19 testing procedure?
A. It is important to differentiate between the kinds of testing possible for Coronavirus. RT-PCR testing checks for the presence or absence of the viral RNA indicates whether the individual is infected at present. It does not however tell you whether he/she has recovered from a prior infection or that the individual is susceptible to the infection. The antibody testing on the other hand is helpful. It indicates whether the individual has recovered and is now immune (IgG) or presently infected (IgM). Keeping this in mind, I urge the government and bodies like the ICMR to make the antibody testing kits available to healthcare workers to better allocate less susceptible individuals to serve in Covid-19 positive or suspected wards.