Fear and loathing at Covid care centres in Delhi, Health News, ET HealthWorld

NEW DELHI: A Naraina resident was anxiously waiting at a Covid care centre in west Delhi with his wife to hear the verdict: could the couple, asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, go back home or would they have to stay back at the government facility? A new standard operating procedure issued by Delhi’s lieutenant governor has made it mandatory for all Covid-positive patients, even the asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms, who do not have a separate room and toilet at home to be will be transferred to a Covid centre, while moderately or severely affected patients, especially those with existing conditions like diabetes and heart ailment, would be shifted to Covid centres and hospitals.

“We are definitely more comfortable at home than at a Covid care centre (CCC) because we do not have symptoms,” said the Naraina man. “Our home has separate rooms and toilets.” While the couple were screened by doctors, district surveillance officers had already checked their residence to certify if they were eligible for home isolation as per protocol.

The LG’s decision on isolation at a CCC is turning into a logistical nightmare for the district administration and health workers. “The directive to send all positive patients to CCCs is a problem for healthcare workers who are already stressed and overburdened. Conducting the daily follow-up of patients is a challenge in itself,” a government official confided.

That the new SOP has created anxiety among patients and their families, as for the Naraina resident, is evident from the fact that while more than 15,000 new cases have emerged since the order was issued, only around 450 patients have made it to a CCC. In the 20-odd CCCs, the largest number went to the Narela CCC, the city’s first and biggest such facility.

The CCC at Dwarka Sector-16, functioning out of DUSIB flats, has screened the highest number of total patients on Monday and Tuesday — 81. It was followed by the Narela CCC, with 79 patients. The others that screened more than 15 patients were the ones at Mandoli (62), Terapanth Bhavan (61), Saket (59) and Badarpur (42). The number of patients who visited other CCCs are less than 15, and eight CCCs, including at Tughlaqabad, PUSA Road, Rouse Avenue and two in Okhla, haven’t seen a single patient.

“The ones who are coming here want to be quickly done with the procedure and return home,” said an official at the west Delhi centre. “When we ask those who are symptomatic to stay back, they protest that they don’t want to go to a government isolation facility since they have the necessary provisions at home.”

The official said that residents of affluent localities didn’t even want to go to a government facility for testing. As an official in a south Delhi CCC disclosed, “Those who are asked to stay at the quarantine facility protest strongly. Nobody wants to stay in a government setup. Most people are not comfortable in a CCC and prefer home isolation. However, the recovery rate is high and those who do stay in the Covid centres are satisfied with the facilities.”

At Narela, where the CCC is spread across four blocks of DDA flats, the official there said, “This quarantine centre was established in March for travellers coming from abroad and began with 250 beds, but the capacity has increased since.” The number of Delhi government officials, doctors, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, Delhi Police personnel posted there number more than 300 currently.

“The number of people coming for testing has gone up from five a day earlier to 40-50 a day in the last couple of days,” the Narela official revealed. “We have adequate facilities for accommodating a large number of patients with each flat capable of housing two patients in separate beds.” The problem, he added, was mobilising people for testing.

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