GHMC starts helpline for COVID-19 patients, but only for medical kits and advice

Patients undergoing home treatment for COVID-19 in Hyderabad and requiring medical advice can reach out to 040-21111111.
GHMC starts helpline for COVID-19 patients, but only for medical kits and advice
GHMC starts helpline for COVID-19 patients, but only for medical kits and advice
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GHMC’s new control room for COVID-19 is only for medical kits and advicThe Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has set up a COVID-19 control room consisting of 20 doctors to provide medical support for patients undergoing home treatment. Those under home treatment and requiring medical advice can reach out to 040-21111111, a landline number set up by the GHMC. In the present setup, the operator asks the caller for their location and assigns the call to a doctor overseeing the locality.

At the control room, doctors will be available on call every day in two shifts from 8 am to 2 pm and from 2 pm to 8 pm. Anyone reaching out to the helpline will be directed to an available doctor. The doctors will provide advice on preventive steps to be taken to contain COVID-19 spread as well as precautions and medication to be taken.

For patients with a positive test report who are yet to begin medication, the doctors will assist them to get in touch with the respective ASHA workers of the locality.

Activists who have been assisting families to help procure hospital beds and oxygen cylinders say all helplines should be linked to the Primary Healthcare Centre (PHCs) of each locality for better service and care of the COVID-19 patient’s in-home treatment.

Problems galore

TNM reached out to the control room seeking information on the availability of ventilator beds, but realised that the operator had no access to any live dashboard on bed availability. We were instead advised to visit Osmania or Gandhi Hospitals, for beds. The operator said they will only be able to guide and inform the hospitals’ address, information on isolation beds, etc.

The operators picked up the calls in only two out of the nine instances.

One of the 20 doctors working in the control room said it became functional only on Monday, and was not forthcoming about the number of calls received so far. “We assist people with medical kits and offer them advice. We take down their address and send in a team with medicines. If the course runs out and the patient is still positive, we will send additional medicines for the duration,” said the doctor, adding that the support group offers only advice and does not assist patients undergoing home treatment with procuring ambulances, hospital beds or oxygen cylinders.

The medical kits supplied by the GHMC to patients under home treatment will not contain an oximeter, a device that helps measure oxygen levels. “If someone is undergoing home treatment, our first priority is to begin their treatment,” said the doctor. “Most COVID-19 patients recover with timely medication. The patient only requires oxygen support if their oxygen level (SpO2) drops below the 80 mark,” the doctor added.

The doctors also seek details on whether the patient has access to a toilet, and if there is adequate space to maintain physical isolation among people living with them at home. “We also advise patient attendees on what precautions they must take while coming in contact with the patient,” the doctor added.

Demand for decentralisation

However, those who help run support groups for COVID-19 patients in the city say the GHMC must consider decentralising the helpline to the local PHC level for better service.

SQ Masood, a city-based activist coordinating with several support groups for COVID-19 patients, said, “The service needs to be decentralised and made operational at a PHC level to be more effective. There is also a problem in prescribing COVID-19 medicines to a patient without any physical examination. If done at the PHC level, there will be better coordination,” he opined.

The GHMC helpline was set up after several instances of COVID-19 patients struggling to find hospital beds and oxygen cylinders were forced to get treatment at home.

SAM Rizwi, Telangana Health and Medical Secretary, told the media on Monday that all incoming calls to 104, the COVID-19 helpline, will now be re-routed to the control room number.

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