With cases of COVID-19 rising sharply in Hyderabad, there is a growing demand that the Government Nizamia General Hospital at Charminar should be converted into a centre where tests and treatment for the coronavirus can be conducted.
The Government Nizamia General Hospital is presently an isolation centre, which means that suspected COVID-19 patients whose test results are awaited, are housed here. If the results return negative or if the patient is positive and asymptomatic, they are sent home for quarantine as per the process. If they test positive and exhibit symptoms, they are shifted to the Gandhi Hospital or OGH for treatment.
Activists say that there is a lot of panic due to adverse reports that have emerged from the state-run Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospital (OGH), which is making people reluctant to come forward and report their symptoms.
"There is so much fear after watching videos on WhatsApp where dead bodies have gone missing or treatment is not being given properly, that people are not preferring to visit small clinics with these symptoms. This is worse, as they could be asymptomatic carriers and spread the disease further unknowingly," says an activist from old city who did not want to be named.
Mushtaq Malik, President of the Tahreek Muslim Shabban says that a COVID-19 testing centre at the hospital in Charminar, which is presently an isolation centre, would help greatly.
Pointing out that the Malakpet Area Hospital has also shut down after staff tested positive for the coronavirus, he alleged, "There is no testing centre for old city at present. People are assuming that going to Gandhi Hospital would mean returning with a dead body. Doctors are doing their best but if there is a lack of infrastructure, it is the government that should be blamed."
"Before Nizamia General Hospitalâ€™s Outpatient block was closed, there were hundreds of patients going there each day with different ailments who have been left in the lurch now. The OP block should be re-opened along with the COVID-19 testing centre so that people are less likely to approach smaller clinics," he added.
Amjed Ullah Khan from the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) had also raised the issue earlier this week, saying, "The hospital should conduct free COVID-19 tests. Doctors and healthcare workers from OGH, Gandhi Hospital and Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) can be posted at the Nizamia General Hospital for the benefit of old city residents, but this is not happening."
The state government has repeatedly emphasised that it is ready to deal with any situation and had several beds empty as asymptomatic patients were under home or institutional quarantine. Private hospitals were also given permission earlier this month to begin treatment of patients who test positive for the coronavirus.
Despite this, there has not been much respite for the public as the capped treatment costs are forcing private hospitals to only delegate around 20% of their total beds for COVID-19, thus resulting in the wards being full and people waiting outside for treatment.
Meanwhile, with the Telangana government scaling up tests after much criticism, 872 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, up from 730 the previous day.
The new cases pushed the state's tally to 8,674, out of which 4,452 are undergoing treatment. 4,005 people have been discharged so far while 217 people have died.
Most of the cases, including 713 on Monday alone, have been reported from the jurisdiction of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).