Antibody Tests, Tele-ICUs: Maharashtra Steps Up Fight Against Coronavirus


Maharashtra has logged more than 1.24 lakh coronavirus cases.

Mumbai: Amid spike in coronavirus cases in Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray government has decided to conduct anti-body tests for all healthcare workers and others on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. With over 1.24 lakh cases, Maharashtra is India’s worst-hit state by the pandemic.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday told reporters, “Anti-body tests and antigen tests have been allowed. Anti-body tests will be done primarily for frontline workers. We will be able to see if anti-bodies have developed or not and they will be able to work very well. We are taking a policy decision for anti-body tests for healthcare workers and frontline staff in all the districts.”

“Antigen tests is a diagnostic test with which we get a result just like the RT-PCR test. Antigen tests can help get reports within one hour of collecting blood sample. If this turns negative, RT-PCR test is done for confirmation. If it turns positive, then the patient is termed Covid positive. This will allow us to take swab samples and take tests in less time. In containment zones, this will help us speed up the testing process,” the minister said.

Protection of healthcare workers has been a key concern for the state government as many doctors, nurses and healthcare workers have contracted the infection.

With a spike expected, Maharashtra which is already experiencing a shortage of doctors, especially with ICUs, is now planning a tele-ICU experiment to treat critical patients more effectively.

Rajesh Tope told reporters, “What we have seen so far during the outbreak is that 85 per cent cases recover without any symptoms. Only 10-15 cent of the total patients need oxygen. Around 2-3 per cent become critical or serious and they need ICU care. ICU requires specialist doctors and this is where we are facing shortage. They are intensivists. Because of their shortage, we are resorting to new technology by Medscape foundation. This is a group of doctors. They have sent a proposal to manage ICUs in five to seven districts.”

Mr Tope said that the new technology will help the government deal with the pandemic amid shortage of doctors and ICU beds. 

“This is a technology where next to the ICU bed there is a monitor that tracks patient’s vital parameters. They can sit in Delhi and track it. They will track the patient history and changing parameters and suggest treatment that will help. This will help us control the death rate and technology can be put to good use. Mumbai, Thane, Jalgaon, Solapur, Aurangabad and Akola have started trials and if it is successful we will expand this tele-ICU to other districts,” he explained.

In Mumbai, the state government says centralised bed management is the only solution.

Mr Tope told reporters, “Bed management in CCC category and DCHC category for asymptomatic patients and patients who only need oxygen is happening without any problems. For serious or critical patients, we will create 500 beds in Covid hospitals. Once we increase these beds there will be no problem of a critical patient not getting a bed. For us the issue in bed management is that, even ICU beds are being occupied by asymptomatic patients though their influence or by paying extra money.”

“We need strict observation and control for this. That is why every private hospital has been given a designated officer and the designated officer will sit there with a ‘May I help You’ board and he will ensure that 80 per cent beds are being provided or not and that they are being charged properly or not. They will have to see that no injustice is done and report to the BMC,” he added.

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