The government asked hospitals to admit patients in an isolated ward, treating them as ‘suspected cases’, even if their COVID-19 test results were awaited.

Covid sample held by a medical professional
Coronavirus Coronavirus Tuesday, July 14, 2020 - 17:02

In the wake of several complaints by many, including COVID-19 patients, who were allegedly denied hospital admission while seeking urgent medical attention, the Karnataka government has issued a circular asking hospitals to admit patients and begin treatment before asking for any documentation.

The circular categorically mentions that even COVID-19 patients who are yet to be allotted Bangalore Urban (BU) numbers and those having breathing distress should be admitted without delay. BU numbers are allotted to each person who tests positive for the coronavirus within the district’s limits. Patients are also given an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) ID once labs communicate the results to them. 

Due to an alleged delay in the COVID-19 management system in the city, there were incidents of patients getting their BU numbers a full day after they were informed that they had tested positive.

Acting on reports that many people who were thought to have COVID-19, died due to lack of timely medical care in Bengaluru, the circular said that even in case of symptomatic patients who are yet to get their samples collected or are awaiting results, the hospitals should treat them in isolation wards until there is clarity on their health condition.

In the circular dated July 13, signed by the Commissioners of both Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and State Health and Family Welfare department, it stated that strict action would be taken against management who deny patients, who are brought in via the ‘108’ ambulance service administered by the government.

Referring to a circular issued on July 4, the latest one said, “the protocol to be followed by ambulance services for shifting of patients who are having breathing distress is detailed out. Even where COVID-19 tests are yet to be undertaken on such patients, the hospitals are expected to admit these patients as suspected cases and treat them first in the isolation ward.”

The circular added that after the result returned, the patients could be shifted to another ward as required. 

“In such cases, it is clarified that Hospitals shall not insist on a letter from the BBMP or lab reports or any BU number. Any violation of this admission protocol shall attract serious action under the provisions of Karnataka Private Medical Establishment (KPME) Act and Disaster Management Act,” the circular added.

It also stated that for as long as the result was awaited, the patient must be treated as per COVID-19 rates set by the government. 

As part of the same circular, a protocol was laid out for treatment of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients, as well as those, who were yet to get their BU numbers. 

For this purpose, either of the three -- an SMS alert on COVID-19 positive status received by the patient on their mobile from an authorised source, a COVID-19 positive alert in Arogya Setu App or Accredited Lab Report indicating COVID-19 positive (or electronic copy of the same), would work as a sufficient proof, the circular said. 

The circular said that patients can call the toll free ‘108’ number and if they confirm that they have tested positive for the coronavirus, the 108 staff will take them to the nearest COVID Care Centre (CCC) without any BU number. After their admission in such a facility, officers present there will collect relevant information from them.

Further, in case there is a need for such patients to be shifted to hospitals, it will be done by 108 ambulances only. 

Other than this, asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients can report to the CCC themselves, given they have valid proof of them being COVID-19 positive and they can provide relevant details to officials present at the CCCs.