Hospitals Test Patients Despite ICMR Guidelines Suggesting Against It

Several hospitals are found conducting COVID-19 tests for patients during their admission, despite the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) latest guidelines that state against the testing of asymptomatic patients. “Asymptomatic patients undergoing surgical/non-surgical invasive procedures including pregnant women in/near labour who are hospitalised for delivery should not be tested unless warranted or symptoms develop,” stated the guidelines.

However, doctors claim surgical outcomes of patients with active infection could be worse. “Unless it is an emergency life-threatening condition, we do test the patients before any procedures. The patients are also tested before they are moved from one ward to the other. There is no workaround. Even an asymptomatic person can give the infection to the other sick patients in a ward and then we do not know who will get severe disease. Not to mention healthcare workers getting exposed,” told a senior administrator of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi to The Indian Express.

A man speaks on the phone as a doctor tries to revive his wife inside an emergency ward of a government-run hospital, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Bijnor district, Uttar Pradesh, India, May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

There has been a dip in the number of COVID-19 tests in regions including the National Capital after the new set of guidelines were released. According to the Delhi government’s senior officials, the rate of sample collection has dropped by two-thirds as a result of the ICMR guidelines.

Other hospitals including the Safdarjung Hospital are conducting COVID-19 tests using the rapid antigen kit during patients’ admission and isolating them when tested positive. Patients with symptoms testing negative for the virus are also sent to a different block as a safety measure.

Doctors claim adding a COVID-19 test to the list of other necessary tests doesn’t add too much to the time and effort. Instead, avoiding the COVID-19 test may lead to the exposure of countless others to the infection.

There has been a shortage of manpower in the health sector as scores of healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus, due to the transmissibility of the new variant.

“There is no evidence so far to suggest that the surgical outcome will not be worse in those with an active infection. The outcomes for patients with Covid-19 were bad during the two previous waves. If it is an emergency life-saving surgery, of course, it needs to happen and is conducted without the test. But why to take a chance with an elective surgery; they can just come back in 10 days or so and get it,” told a medical officer to the national daily.

The accountability lies on the hospital administration and they are responsible for any untoward incident that may happen to the admitted patient from the infection. COVID-19 testing for every patient becomes a moral responsibility of the health officials.