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Doctors’ body requests Dr Harsh Vardhan to reconsider revised policy for discharge of COVID-19 patients

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AHSD urged the Union government to take up state-specific focussed intervention with the ICMR

A representative body of medical practitioners in government service of West Bengal has urged Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan to reconsider the revised policy for discharge of COVID-19 patients prepared in consultation with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Noting that different strains of SARS-CoV-2 are prevailing across the country with separate morbidity and mortality profiles, the Association of Health Service Doctors (AHSD) said the ICMR guidelines cannot be exercised uniformly everywhere. In February, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) had announced ”severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as the new name of the virus.

“As Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi are flooded with cases with perceived scarcity of beds and apparatus and too high bed occupancy rate, the ICMR’s recent most discharge protocol and advisory on quarantine stay may be applicable there having no other alternative.

“But in West Bengal and many other states where geographical spread is not yet established, discharging confirmed cases without sampling can’t be the choice. Asymptomatics may potentially transmit the virus,” the letter, dated May 10, said.

The AHSD urged the Union government to take up state-specific focussed intervention with the ICMR.

Pointing out that the current COVID-19 outbreak has provoked social stigma, the letter said, if any coronavirus patient is released only on the criteria of not having fever, his neighbours may refuse to accept him in the locality.

“It has also been experienced that coronavirus patients with mild symptoms or no symptoms are not encouraged for home isolation by his family and close relatives,” the letter said.

The letter further urged setting up of one testing laboratory in each district of the country.

Besides, one additional RT-PCR laboratory should be identified in each district for frontline COVID-19 warriors by the Centre and new machines should be supplied without disrupting the ongoing tuberculosis elimination projects, the letter signed by AHSD general secretary Manas Gumta said. The revised discharge policy for COVID-19 cases announced by the Union health ministry said, coronavirus infected patients developing severe illness or having compromised immunity will have to test negative through reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test before being discharged by a hospital.

However, moderate cases of COVID-19 and pre- symptomatic, mild and very mild cases need not undergo tests before being discharged after resolution of symptoms.

According to the previous set of rules, a patient was considered fit to be discharged if he or she tested negative on day 14 and then again in a span of 24 hours.

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