Patna: The Covid-19 pandemic is not only taking its toll on government health institutions, but also on private clinics and hospitals, which have shut down in the wake of their staff or patients testing positive, thereby affecting treatment of those suffering from other ailments.
In some cities, patients with cough and cold are not even allowed to enter private health centres due to fears that they might be Covid-positive. Many doctors have even asked patients to get themselves tested for Covid-19 before seeking treatment.
One of the leading private hospitals in Patna, Ruben Hospital, closed down a week ago after a few of its nurses tested positive for Covid.
Mahabir Cancer Sansthan, the largest charitable cancer institute in eastern India, closed down on 16 July for the same reason.
“The crowds (cancer patients and their relatives) who would assemble on the premises had become unmanageable and would have exposed our staff and patients to Covid-19. Already 60 of our employees have tested positive. We will be reopening only after we construct a registration counter away from the hospital premises,” superintendent of the hospital Dr L.P. Singh told ThePrint.
He said the hospital received around 600 patients per day during Covid crisis.
Fear among private doctors
The Covid fear has gripped the private doctors’ community in the state, which is why they have been closing down their clinics if any of their staff or patients test positive.
“There is a fear in the doctors’ fraternity. While some private clinics have taken strict precautions like asking patients to get themselves tested for Covid-19 (before seeking treatment), others have unofficially closed down,” former president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bihar, Dr Brajnandan Yadav told ThePrint.
Yadav added the burden of Covid testing is so high that a private lab in Patna takes 5 to 20 days to give the results.
It’s not just in the state capital where private health facilities are shutting down in the fear of the virus.
In Bhagalpur, the second worst-hit Covid city of Bihar after Patna with 1,455 cases until 17 July, many private hospitals and clinics have closed down.
“More than half the private hospitals and clinics in Bhagalpur have closed down because either the doctor or the staff have tested positive. Doctors are not able to conduct operations because Covid tests are not possible. There is no private lab licensed to conduct the test, and Bhagalpur Medical College is overloaded,” said Dr Amitabh Singh, who runs a private clinic in Bhagalpur and is the former IMA chief of the city.
In Gaya also, the famous Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage destination, several private health facilities have shut down.
“The doctors do not use the word closed. But their staff say that the doctor is either ill or not in town. At the clinics that are still open, patients with cough and cold are not allowed to enter,” said a Gaya resident.
The IMA chief of Gaya, Dr Ram Sewak Prasad, said private doctors are struggling to perform under the Covid-19 crisis.
“Several doctors have closed down the moment they found that either their staff or patients they had treated had tested positive,” he told ThePrint.
Sources in the IMA told ThePrint this is the condition in almost all districts and towns of Bihar.
A senior minister in the ruling BJP, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint he got several calls from people, asking him to help them get admitted to private hospitals.
So far, two doctors, including a private doctor, have died this month in the state due to Covid. Several more have been infected along with paramedics.
“I’m so scared that I virtually throw out patients coming to me without masks. I have given strict orders to the security not to allow people without masks to enter the premises,” said a doctor at a private hospital in Patna.
Covid status in Bihar
Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 cases in Bihar has more than doubled since 1 July.
On 1 July, the total number of cases was 10,002 with the daily rise hovering around 350. The state then boasted of having a recovery rate of over 77 per cent. But since then, not only have the numbers increased to 23,589 (as of Saturday afternoon), but the recovery rate has also slipped to around 65 per cent, according to the state government data.
On Friday evening, the state health department said that it had registered around 1,800 new cases in the last 24 hours.
In comparison with the sharp rise in cases, testing has been really slow — from 7,200 on 1 July to just over 10,000 on 17 July, according to state government data. Bihar is also the state that has conducted the lowest number of tests per million in the country.
Despite the rapid increase in the number of cases, the health infrastructure remains limited.
Although the government has directed all state-run health facilities to treat Covid patients free of cost, most of them are without ICUs, ventilators and oxygen support.
In Patna, medical hubs like Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) do not have sufficient ICU beds to treat severe Covid patients, according to former Bihar IMA chief Yadav.
The IGIMS and PMCH are reluctant to take in more Covid patients and refer them to AIIMS, Patna, which have expressed resentment because of overloading of patients.