Dr Girdhar Gyani, director general of the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) speaks with TNM about how the private healthcare sector will take part in tackling the rise of coronavirus disease in the country.

Will need 2000 more ICU beds in Bengaluru if infection spreads An expert tells TNM
Health Coronavirus Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 16:09

It has been a hectic few weeks for Dr Girdhar Gyani of the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI). He has been actively involved in the discussion of assigning private hospitals to care for those affected with the coronavirus disease in India. TNM spoke to him to find out more about the efforts being taken in the fight against the disease.

Q: The government has identified 10 COVID-19 hotspots across the country. Why is this important, and should the government identify more hotspots where there might be more clusters of cases?

A: What we are seeing worldwide is that of the number of people who get infected, only a small percentage of them actually require ICU admission and ventilatory support. Most people who are detected early, make a full recovery with hospital admission and care. While the government is taking certain efforts to mark areas as hotspots, or regions where there are several cases, screening and testing measures also have to be increased in these areas to find unidentified cases and begin treatment. This way, it will be easy to curb further spread of the virus. Even the presently identified hotspots are only conducting testing as per the standard protocol, only by increasing testing efforts in hotspots will it be possible to prevent further spread.

Q: Will the use of rapid tests in areas identified as hotspots be better to detect those who may be more prone to developing COVID?

A: Rapid testing will allow for us to screen and find anyone who has been exposed to the virus. Thereby authorities can take the necessary steps to isolate the individual either at home or in a hospital, depending on whether they have symptoms. So in this manner, it will help contain spreading of the virus by finding those who might have been exposed to it, even before they show symptoms. Those testing positive will need to be isolated and started on treatment at once. In addition to mass screening efforts, it is important to spread awareness in the areas as well.

Q: You spoke about the availability of facilities in India. How many hospital beds does a country like India need?

A: The government has been asking for at least 10 to 20 beds to be allocated in private hospitals in urban areas like Bengaluru. Seeing the way things are, at least 2000 beds will be required immediately in ICU alone, in just Bengaluru, if there is further spread of the infection. Neither government or private hospitals have the capacity to handle this. This is why we urge for specific COVID centres to be opened temporarily. Coronavirus positive patients should not be kept in the same hospital as others, unless the hospital has a separate block dedicated for the same.

Q: Will private hospitals be accessible to all individuals? What about the cost of tests and treatment?

A: There are talks underway to allow for treatment costs to be covered under each state government’s health insurance scheme. As for the costs of tests, the price for this has already been capped, regardless of where an individual is tested.

Q: The lockdown has affected supply of medical equipment and medicines. Have these concerns been raised by AHPI?

A: As of now, supplies are in stock in most places, at least the essentials. However we have addressed these concerns with the government and there are discussions ongoing to figure out how to best tackle any possible disruption to a supply of essential medicines.

Q: There is a severe lack of PPE for healthcare workers, have you brought this up with the government and what are the plans to overcome this shortage?

A: Again, we have raised the issue with the officials concerned and are currently in the process of sourcing more PPE for doctors and medical personnel.