Private health-care units will have to set up testing facilities for Covid-19 if the coronavirus spreads in Bengal, sources quoted health department officials telling doctors and representatives of private hospitals at a training session on Tuesday.
The session at Swastha Bhavan, where many frequently asked questions about the virus were discussed, was conducted by doctors and health department officials, who recently attended a training in Delhi.
“The state government is not against private pathological testing facilities. At this point there is no need for private testing facilities. However, if the scale of the disease goes up, the private sector will be asked to set up testing units,” a health department official said.
Sources said this was conveyed to the doctors and other representatives of private hospitals at Tuesday’s session.
In Bengal, the coronavirus tests are performed at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Beleghata and SSKM Hospital.
The health department has applied to the ICMR for permission to open three more testing facilities — at the School of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta; Midnapore Medical College and Hospital; and the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri.
The health department has allowed private hospitals to collect swab samples of people suffering from symptoms of possible coronavirus infection.
“The experts demonstrated how to collect swab samples,” said a doctor who attended the training.
Doctors and officials who conducted the session asked the representatives of private hospitals about their preparedness to tackle a coronavirus outbreak in Bengal. The private hospitals were requested to create isolation beds in obstetrics and gynaecology wards, too.
“We were briefed about the state government’s preparedness and experts spoke about the virus. The health department asked the private sector to cooperate with the government,” said an official of a private hospital.
The private hospitals were told about the government helplines and the nodal officials who can be contacted to clarify doubts, among other issues.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had on Monday asked private hospitals and nursing homes not to deny treatment to people with coronavirus symptoms.
An official at Swasthya Bhavan said far fewer doctors from private hospitals would attend meetings on dengue. “At today’s meeting on the coronavirus, almost every private hospital sent representatives,” said the official.
A Unicef official discussed frequently asked questions on the coronavirus.
One question was whether a person without symptoms and not in close contact with a potentially affected person should wear a face mask. “One should not. Because if the mask is not used properly, it can cause more harm than good by being a source of infection,” was the reply.
As part of the preparedness to fight the coronavirus, a team from the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission inspected several private hospitals. The commission regulates private hospitals across the state.
Sources said the team inspected isolation units and screening facilities for people with symptoms of coronavirus infection.
Many hospitals have created separate outpatient departments and emergency beds for people with coronavirus symptoms. The commission members inspected those units, too.