Hospitals asked not to test Covid asymptomatic patients


PATNA In line with the Centre’s guidelines on Covid testing, the Bihar health department has advised medical college hospitals not to test asymptomatic patients before their admission, especially in emergency.

The advisory follows a complaint on Tuesday to additional chief secretary (health) Pratyaya Amrit that some hospitals were not initiating treatment of patients till they got a Covid-19 test done.

The complainant claimed that doctors at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Cardiology (IGIC), a government super specialty centre, did not attend to a patient who had suffered a heart attack till his Covid test was done.

“We are testing patients for Covid-19 on the rapid antigen detection (RAD) kit before admission. This hardly takes five minutes and the result is available by the time an attendant completes the registration procedure for admission,” said a senior doctor of the IGIC, requesting anonymity.

“The idea behind testing patients before their admission is to segregate them in Covid and non-Covid wards. We have a separate 10-bed Covid ward where we admit acute cases of heart attack, heart failure, heart block or arrhythmia,” said the doctor quoted above.

“In case of Covid-19 patients, who are stable from their cardiac function point of view and can be managed at home, we send them back [for home isolation] or advise their attendants to admit such patients either to the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) or the Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) in Patna if other complications related to Covid-19 arise,” he said.

Given the high number of asymptomatic cases, doctors at almost all health facilities continue to test patients for Covid-19 on real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), a confirmatory test for Covid-19 that takes a minimum of 6-8 hours for the result, before any invasive or surgical procedure.

“We test all patients on RT-PCR before surgery and still get at least a couple of Covid-positive cases every day among those who are asymptomatic. We have cases of patients, who tested negative earlier, to have turned positive before their surgery. In such cases, we either defer the surgery if it is an elective one or in case of emergency, do it in a separate operation theatre for Covid-19 patients,” said Dr Umesh Kumar Bhadani, professor of anesthesiology department and dean (academics) at AIIMS, Patna.

“We have even come across cases where patients have tested Covid-positive even after their surgery,” he added.

“Everyone has the right to protect oneself,” said Dr Bhadani in response to a query if doctors were insisting on Covid-19 test, even in case of asymptomatic patients, for their personal safety.

“We cannot allow Covid-19 asymptomatic patients to become super spreaders,” he said.

NMCH medical superintendent Dr Binod Kumar Singh said patients at the hospital were being tested for Covid-19 not at the time of their admission, but before conducting any invasive or surgical procedure.

The state reported 3,475 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, down from 5,410 on Sunday, taking the total count of active cases to 26,673. Patna, which had seen a spike in cases, reported 745 new cases down from 999 infections on Wednesday.

The state’s test positivity rate also declined from 3.67% on January 14 to 2.30% on Wednesday.

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