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Modi govt bans air-lifting of patients as some lockdown curbs intensify

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Doctors and paramedics are seen demonstrating the rescue of a road accident victim through air ambulance in Mumbai | Getty Images via Bloomberg


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New Delhi: India has banned use of air ambulances and other medical evacuations unless the treatment required is not available locally, as a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus is extended, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Planes carrying patients will only be allowed to fly if local authorities determine treatment isn’t available at the point of origin, and the civil aviation ministry and the aviation regulator must give specific permission for that particular flight to operate, the people said, asking not to be identified as the order isn’t public. Approvals can be obtained electronically, but the condition of the patient needs to be deemed “serious,” they said.

India’s federal government will allow medical flights if state governments ask for them, one person said. The government is also reviewing the guidelines to see if further relaxations can be made, the person said.

Modi on Tuesday extended an existing 21-day nationwide lockdown until May 3, as the number of virus infections and deaths continues to rise. On Sunday, India had reported 16,365 cases and 521 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Infectious diseases experts say the true number of infections is likely much higher given that the Indian Council of Medical Research said the country has tested just 372,123 samples from its 1.3 billion citizens. That’s about 0.03%.

The government has already banned all domestic and international commercial flights, and asked airlines not to take bookings before lockdown-related curbs are lifted. India’s health-care infrastructure is widely criticized as inadequate and treatment often isn’t reliable even if local doctors are qualified to attend to patients, leading to a surge in air ambulances among the more affluent.

Thousands of patients from overseas, including from the U.S. and war-torn Afghanistan, visit India every year looking for cheaper health-care alternatives at its private hospitals. These hospitals often have tie ups with air ambulance companies to transport them. The market was expected to be worth 9 billion dollars this year, according to a report from industry body FICCI last year. –Bloomberg


Also read: Agriculture, construction and manufacturing units get relief under new norms for lockdown 2


 

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India

Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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