Having tested positive for COVID-19 a few days ago, 57-year-old Parvathy (name changed) from Perambur, who had been home quarantined, decided to check into a private hospital on Tuesday after her blood oxygen saturation levels were low. She also had hypertension and family members did not want to take a chance.
However, the search for a hospital turned into a harrowing experience as most private hospitals denied her admission sighting one reason or another despite the Health Department’s dashboard displaying availability of beds and ICUs.
While Health officials claimed that the availability of beds on the dashboard meant that no patient could be denied admission, the ground reality was different. “First, we tried a hospital in Ambattur that displayed two available ICUs in the dashboard but when we called them up, the hospital authorities said they were full,” one of Parvathy’s family member said. When they checked another well-known hospital in Kilpauk that had seven ICUs and five ventilators on Tuesday, (as per the dashboard), the hospital denied admission stating that the patient ‘did not look so good.’ Another private hospital in Kancheepuram that had 14 ventilators and ICU beds each denied admission stating that they were working only with government hospital authorities on COVID cases and would admit the patient only if referred by a government hospital. Eventually, Parvathy was admitted to Stanley Government Hospital.
Two weeks ago, a 77-year-old +ve patient from Tondiarpet, was denied admission in a similar manner by at least three private hospitals. The relatives of the patient said they had checked status of bed availability on the dashboard and despite that were denied admission. He was admitted to Omandurar Government General Hospital, but succumbed.
While these are a few instances of COVID patients being denied admission, many have raised questions over the difference in data given on the State dashboard and actual bed availability. Health Department officials claimed that any COVID-19 patient cannot be denied treatment, especially when the hospitals provide information on the dashboard on availability of beds. Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan also clarified that there was no need for government authorities’ referral to admit COVID patients in private hospitals. “If a patient is sick and chooses to be treated in a private hospital, he/she should not be denied admission. Hospitals displaying incorrect information on the dashboard or denying admission despite availability will be warned and action taken,” he said.