Gujarat: 90-yr-old dilapidated VS Hospital designated ‘base hospital’ for new 900-bed Covid facility

The nearly 90-year-old, dilapidated Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-run Sheth Vadilal Sarabhai (VS) Hospital, located at the central business district that was opened for Covid-19 treatment on April 14 for the first time since the pandemic hit Gujarat, is now set to play a bigger role in management of the viral disease.

Once Ahmedabad’s go-to hospital, the facility currently does not have the means to take in trauma patients and is treating only 50 Covid-19 patients.

On Friday, the state government through a notification designated it as a “base hospital” for a dedicated 900-bed Covid-19 hospital set to come up at the Gujarat University Convention Centre in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Principal Secretary, education, Anju Sharma, who has been entrusted with the administration and management of the new DRDO hospital, said the new hospital is always an extension of an existing one.

“Technically, there has to be an established hospital since this is a temporary unit (the DRDO hospital). So, any guidance, support, mentoring, etc, will be looked after (by VS Hospital). Otherwise, everything else is going to be independent… Patients will be brought here directly to the DRDO hospital and managed by independent staff,” Sharma said.

The notification, a copy of which is with The Sunday Express, has also entrusted the VS hospital with the “mortuary management” of the 900-bed hospital. “They (VS Hospital) will be helping as mortuary has its own protocol. The DRDO facility will otherwise have its own mortuary, the facility will also have its own medical superintendent. We are developing our own protocols as well,” Sharma said.

VS Hospital medical superintendent Dr Manish Patel said the hospital’s cold storage has a capacity of storing up to eight to 10 bodies. He, however, refused to entertain any other queries regarding Covid-19 management at the hospital.

Notably, in 2019, the VS Hospital was pared down from 1,155 beds to 500 after the swanky Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) hospital was opened right next door. As many as 655 beds of the VS Hospital were also transferred to the SVP hospital.

Until Friday, as per the AMC health department, 50 of the 60 Covid-19 beds at VS Hospital were occupied. Last year, during the first wave of Covid-19, VS Hospital’s doors had remained open for regular procedures and OPD services. But at present it is incapable of taking in even a trauma or emergency patient, the AMC said.

“The hospital has been crumbling, so it was functioning at a bare minimum. Provisioning 60 beds for Covid-19 patients is all we can manage. Running regular or OPD services is not possible right now,” an AMC official, on condition of anonymity, said.

On Friday afternoon, the hospital, had also refused to take in the body of septuagenarian Manojbhai Gandhi, a Covid-19 patient who died following an “attack” while in home isolation. An attendant of a 108-ambulance service, in which the body was brought in to the hospital, said, when they had reached the Gandhi home in Paldi following a distress call, approximately a kilometre from the hospital, the latter was dead.

“However, the family insisted that he be taken to VS Hospital. When we brought the body here, the hospital refused to take it. How long can we wait here? There are other patients too whom we have to ferry.” The body was finally taken home in an autorickshaw.

Shahpur-resident Reshma Muhammadakbar, who was accompanying her landlady to get a rabies shot Friday said the wait at the hospital was often long. “We come to this hospital for everything. A rabies injection from a private clinic near my home would cost around Rs 750, but here it is free. The wait is long and they (the hospital staff) make you run around, but we are used to it now. See, now my landlady has to get a slip made at the second entry to the emergency-trauma building, then go to the first entry and thereafter the first floor,” Reshma said.

A woman, whose 54-year-old mother was undergoing hospital at the VS Hospital for Covid-19 since Thursday night, however, said the admission process was “quite smooth”. “We have come to the VS Hospital for the first time. Usually, we only go to private hospitals,” the woman said.

So far, the hospital has not given a separate access to non-Covid patients. Emergency procedures of delivery, meanwhile, also remains suspended due to the dilapidated condition of the building housing the maternity unit, Chinai Prasuti Gruh, and the new building of Emergency-Trauma Centre, where such procedures were being carried out until now, has been converted for Covid-19 treatment.

Meanwhile, the state education department has finalised the appointment of the administrator and medical superintendent for the dedicated Covid-19 hospital being set up at GU’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. Most of the medical and paramedical staff at the facility is said to be deputed by Government of India.

On April 14, two other AMC-run hospitals — LG Hospital in Maninagar and Shardaben Chimanlal Lalbhai (SCL) Municipal General Hospital in Saraspur — were also opened for Covid-19 treatment.

— With inputs from Ritu Sharma, Ahmedabad

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