Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday warned of strong action against private hospitals allegedly refusing admission to COVID-19 patients and indulging in "black-marketing" of beds.
The Delhi government will depute medical professionals in each private hospital to ensure patients are aware of beds available and they are admitted without any hassles, he said.
His government is going to issue an order that no hospitals will refuse admission to suspected COVID-19 patients and that it will be their responsibility to test and treat such persons, Kejriwal said in a virtual media briefing.
The chief minister also rubbished claims that COVID-19 tests have been stopped in Delhi, and asserted that the number of tests conducted in the city is the highest in the country.
He, however, said the testing capacity is limited and it will be overwhelmed if everyone went for the test, adding that asymptomatic persons should not go for it.
Most of the private hospitals in Delhi are good but some of them are demanding money for beds which is nothing but "black-marketing", Kejriwal said.
"We are calling and meeting the heads of all these hospitals since yesterday and they are being told that there will be no negotiations in the treatment of people in their hospitals as they have to admit the people who are in need.
"We will take strong action against such hospitals and they cannot refuse patients. Some time will be needed to break the mafia who are indulging in it. These few hospitals have political approach but they should not be under the illusion that their political masters can save them," he said.
The government is talking to owners of private hospitals to determine their problems in reserving 20 per cent of their beds for COVID-19 patients, he said.
Private hospitals are a critical part of the city's health infrastructure and the Delhi government acknowledges their role, he added.
"There are some private hospitals which are resorting to such means. First they say they don't have bed and when patients insist, they demand huge amount. Isn't this black-marketing of beds?" he asked.
The chief minister said the Delhi government had to face a backlash from hospitals for providing the information on availability of beds and ventilators on an app launched on Tuesday.
He said till Tuesday, 2,800 coronavirus patients were in hospitals, mostly run by the Delhi government. The number of patients admitted to hospitals now stands at 3,900, indicating that the capacity is being filled by private hospitals and people are making use of the 'Delhi Corona' app.
"Most private hospitals are good, but there are 2-3 private hospitals (that) do black-marketing. We thought that if information on availability of beds and ventilators is made transparent, people will get to know everything about this," he said.
Kejriwal said some hospitals are lying about the availability of beds. "False refusal cannot be tolerated and admitting coronavirus patients is non-negotiable," he said.
"Two-three hospitals feel will remain unaffected... they think they can get things through their political bosses and continue doing their black-marketing, I want to warn them that they will not be spared," Kejriwal said.
In an order issued on Friday, the Delhi Health Department directed medical superintendents and medical directors of COVID-designated hospitals to ensure that no patient who has coronavirus symptoms and is in “moderate and severe” category is denied admission on the pretext that he or she does not have a test report.
"All such patients may be kept in COVID suspect patient area till the test report is received. Accordingly, if found positive, then she/he shall be kept in the COVID hospital and otherwise transferred to non-COVID hospital for further management. This issues with the approval of Hon'ble Minister (Health)," the order said.
Kejriwal said coronavirus testing has not been stopped and currently 36 government and private labs are doing the tests. Action was taken against six labs for irregularities, he said.
"There are flu clinics of Delhi government hospitals and some private ones, there are COVID centres where you can go for test. Even today, 5300 samples were tested," he said.
The Delhi government's priority for now is to save lives, he added.
Delhi health infra should be used for its residents only: Delhi govt panel
A five-member panel constituted by the Delhi government has suggested that the health infrastructure of the city should be used only for treating residents of the national capital, in view of the raging COVID-19 crisis, sources said on Saturday.
The suggestion comes in the backdrop of Delhi recording over 1,000 coronavirus cases daily for the past few days and the Aam Aadmi Party government fending itself against allegations of lack of hospital beds and other facilities.
The panel, headed by Indraprastha University vice-chancellor Dr Mahesh Verma, has submitted its report to the government in which it has said that if Delhi health infrastructure is open for non-residents, all beds will be occupied within just three days, according to the the sources.
An official said that the government will soon take a decision on the report of the panel, constituted earlier this week.
The other members of panel are: Dr Sunil Kumar, the 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, the group medical director of Max Hospital.
The Delhi government had asked the panel to guide it on healthcare infrastructure augmentation and overall preparedness of hospitals to battle COVID-19 in the national capital.
The panel was also asked to guide the government on any other area where strengthening of infrastructure is required to better manage the pandemic in Delhi.
On Friday, Delhi recorded 1,330 fresh coronavirus cases taking the COVID-19 tally in the city beyond the 26,000-mark, as the death toll due to the disease jumped to 708.
The highest spike in fresh cases -- 1513 -- was recorded on June 3.
Earlier this week, the government had directed that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients and those having mild symptoms be discharged from hospitals within 24 hours of admission, and district surveillance officers should be reported.
The government had warned hospitals that non-compliance will be viewed seriously and invite legal action "without further notice".
On June 1, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced sealing of Delhi's borders for a week in the wake of rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the national capital.
The Delhi government had received over 7.5 lakh suggestions from people on whether the borders should be reopened and health services of hospitals be restricted to the treatment of only Delhiites, according to an official statement Friday evening.
Sources in the government had said on Friday that the borders can be reopened, but services of the Delhi government-run health facilities may be reserved only for the people of the national capital.
However, health services in the Centre-run hospitals may be available for people belonging to other states.