Chennai opened its biggest COVID-19 quarantine facility at the Trade Centre in Nandambakkam recently. Equipped with 550 isolation beds, the convention hall has hosted several trade fairs and meetings in the past. When the convention hall was finally put to use as a quarantine facility last week, visuals emerged of patients complaining about lack of ventilation and poor facilities.
On Monday, more visuals began circulating on social media in which the patients lodged at the centre could be heard demanding the officials to send them back home, complaining that discharging those who tested negative for the virus is not being done efficiently. TNM spoke to Chennai Corporation officials to understand what transpired at the biggest COVID-care centre in the city.
On May 4, 84 patients from the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) were brought to the quarantine centre at Nandambakkam Trade Centre and a day later, 125 more people were taken there.
â€śAll of them are patients with very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, young and without co-morbidities. These are patients who do not require hospital supportive treatment. They have been shifted from RGGGH to the quarantine facility in Nandambakkam,â€ť said an official from the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC).
Initially, the controversy was over people asking why they had been shifted to these centres and were not being provided treatment at a hospital.
At that time, J Radhakrishnan IAS, GCCâ€™s Special Nodal Officer during explained- â€śThe central government has recommended the operation of COVID centres where patients are not made to feel a hospital-like scenario. Such patients are only the low-risk, asymptomatic cases. We have more than sufficient isolation beds in hospitals for treating coronavirus patients, but asymptomatic patients can feel comfortable here,â€ť he explained.
Facilities made better at Nandambakkam
Regional Deputy Commissioner Chennai South Dr Alby John Varghes says about 276 persons were lodged at the Nandambakkam centre as of May 11 evening. â€śWe have discharged about 200 patients so far after testing negative and the numbed housed at the COVID care centre keeps changing,â€ť he says.
He assures that the facilities at the centre have been bettered following complaints from patients on the very first day. â€śThe problem with ventilation has now been fixed and we are operating the air conditioner after disinfecting the area. Moreover, regular sanitation and disinfection is taking place at the centre. The food being served too is of very good quality and we have been regularly inspecting the place,â€ť he tells TNM.
However, he adds that people still demanded to be sent back home on Monday, not understanding the risks involved with transmission. â€śWe had to clearly explain the risks involved if they are discharged. These are patients who do not have self-quarantining facilities at home. If they were to be discharged without following protocol, there lies the risk of spreading the infection. Now the situation has come under control,: he says.
Other centres in Chennai
Asymptomatic patients from Stanley Medical College Hospital and Omandurar Government Medical College Hospital were shifted to DG Vaishnav College and Loyola College respectively.
In accordance with Minister of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW)â€™s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), patients will be clinically assessed to be mild/presymptomatic, moderate or severe. Those who have been categorised as mild/presymptomatic will stay at Dedicated COVID-Care Centre. Those with moderate symptoms will be sent to the Dedicated COVID Health Centre and those with serious symptoms will be sent to Dedicated COVID Hospital.
The city of Chennai has 39 COVID care centres equipped with 5,000 beds as of May 11. This is mainly to relieve the pressure on hospitals in treating patients with co-morbidities and the elderly infected by the novel coronavirus. According to a press release from Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), the COVID care centre set up at Velammal Engineering College has 289 patients. The one at DG Vaishnava college has 170 patients, Loyola College 112 patients, and National Skill Development Corporation has 39 COVID-19 patients.
GCC follows MoHFWâ€™s protocol for discharging mild/presymptomatic patients. These patient can be discharged after 10 days of quarantine. There is no need for testing prior to discharge but the patient will be advised to remain under home-isolation for seven-days after discharge.