COVID-19: Pvt Hospital to Pool Test 24000 Workers & In-Patients
Max Healthcare will be starting screening and testing of 24,000 employees and in-patients for COVID-19.
A big private hospital chain will be starting screening and COVID-19 testing of 24,000 employees and admitted (and to-be admitted) patients to the hospital as a precautionary measure to contain further spread of the novel coronavirus and ensure these places are safe for workers as well as patients.
A virtual press conference on Wednesday, 15 April was addressed by Abhay Soi, Chairman, Max Healthcare and Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director.
Over 24,000 healthcare workers, this includes Max Hospitals (18,000), BLK Hospital (3,000) and Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai (3,000) will be tested for COVID-19 over the next few weeks. "Pool testing will be used for the employees, while individual PCR testing will be done for all the patients admitted in the hospital. Once ICMR allows serology testing and kits becoming available, we will use it for further and repeat testing of the staff members," they added.
“For now, we can conduct 300-400 tests a day in our ICMR-approved lab. If we start pooling, this can be expanded to more than 1000 tests.”Dr Budhiraja
All patients admitted across the network hospitals in the non-COVID wards and new patients will also be tested (at the time of admission) so as to ensure that hospitals remain safe.
Despite Occupancy Rate Down to 35%, Load on Healthcare Workforce Remains High
While patients have been postponing hospital visits when avoidable, all 18000 healthcare workers are still on the job to cater to COVID and non-COVID patients admitted or coming for treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy.
Abhay Soi said, “We still need the workers at full strength because there needs to be a rotation among three groups. Working for 14 days, followed by 14-day quarantine and then going back home for 14 days. So we need one group here at all times.”
Speaking particularly about Max Saket, a total of 26 COVID-19 patients are admitted currently, out of which 16 are in the ICU and 10 in the isolation ward. Two among the 16 are on the ventilator, and one is seemingly getting better.
The hospital has so far seen four of its employees testing positive for the disease: 1 doctor, 2 nurses and 1 general duty assistant. All four are stable, Dr Budhiraja informed.
PPE Supplies, Price and Pool Testing
Addressing the media, Soi said that the lockdown has helped bend the curve a little, and has given hospitals time to prepare themselves better with the required materials. For now, Max Hospital does not have any shortage of PPE kits, he says. This is despite the fact that around eight PPEs are needed to attend to an average patient in an ICU in one day.
Talking about the pricing, while tests for healthcare staff will be conducted for free, individuals will have to pay the ICMR-approved price of Rs 4500. Soi explained that if a person walks into the hospital tomorrow and has symptoms, he/she will be tested at this price, but if a family of five enters, then a pool test can be conducted. Will that make the test cheaper?
“Yes, it will bring the cost down only if none of the members test positive. But if even one tests positive, then separate tests will have to be conducted for all 5, increasing the total number of tests to 6, and thus bringing up the price.”
Protocol on HCQ and Plasma Therapy
The ICMR has allowed the prophylactic use of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for healthcare workers and caretakers of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients.
Dr Budhiraja explains Max Healthcare’s policy for using the drug, “We are giving a weekly dose of HCQ to all our frontline workers. They need to report to the staff clinic, they are evaluated to be sure the drug is safe for them, and then one dose is given to them there and then. This way, no hoarding is possible.”
Speaking about treatment, he shares that after consultation with the ethics committee as well as the family members of the patient, off level use of plasma treatment has been opted for in the critical patients in the hospital. If the younger patient, who is around 50, continues to improve, it will be a good sign.
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