Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he has been forced to reserve COVID-19 beds in all private and Delhi government hospitals in the city exclusively for the use of Delhi-based patients.
This, he said, followed the deliberations and recommendations of a committee set up to look into the matter.
The decision comes a day before Delhi’s borders are set to be opened after remaining sealed for a week.
“The committee came to the conclusion that if the hospitals are open to everyone, then the beds that have been prepared for COVID-19 patients will be filled in just three days,” Kejriwal said.
The committee of experts was headed by Dr Mahesh Verma, Vice-Chancellor of IP University; Dr Sunil Kumar, Medical Director of GTB Hospital; Dr Arun Gupta, president of Delhi Medical Council; Dr R K Gupta, former president of Delhi Medical Association; and Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director, Max Hospital.
With this, only a few hospitals operated by the Central government will remain open for COVID-19 patients from outside Delhi.
Most of the big government hospitals in Delhi, such as AIIMS and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, are run by the central government.
However, some, like Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital or GTB Hospital, are run by the state government. The full list of hospitals run by Delhi government can be seen here.
Keeping in mind the concerns of private hospitals, Delhi government will not prevent patients requiring specialized surgery, such as cancer patients and transplantation candidates, from utilizing the services of private hospitals in the city state.
The move to restrict access to private hospitals is likely to lead to criticism, as these hospitals were set up for, and have expanded with the money paid by, patients from within and outside Delhi, such as those from Faridabad, Gurgaon, NOIDA and even states like Bihar.
However, Delhi is currently seeing a huge spike in Coronavirus 2019 cases, with tens of thousands of people in the city estimated to be already infected.
Around 12% of the total infected persons require some sort of hospital care, while around 5-6% are estimated to require intensive care using the aid of ventilators.
Media reports point out how most of the COVID-19 hospitals are turning away patients claiming that they no longer have any beds free.
According to Kejriwal, Delhi has around 10,000 COVID-19 beds under local government hospitals and an equal number under Central government hospitals.
It also has thousands of beds under private hospitals, but not all of them are ready for treating COVID-19 patients.
Ideally, COVID-19 patients have to be treated on beds with oxygen lines, and in a facility with an intensive care unit.