Hyderabad: When 33-year-old Padma Priya developed fever, cough and body ache five days ago, she reached out to the state Health Department team.
She was asked to come to the city’s King Koti Hospital for screening, but denied a test for coronavirus, despite exhibiting strong symptoms of the virus. The authorities said she did not have a travel history or was a direct ‘primary contact’.
Priya, a senior journalist and mother of a four-year old, was told by the doctors that she did show ‘most symptoms’, but cannot be tested. And, even if she had COVID-19 virus, she need not worry as she is ‘young,’ and her ‘body can fight it out’.
5 days ago, i developed fever. it was low at first. 99 degrees. i had a bad headache that day. i popped a Dolo and kept working.— Padma Priya D (@priyakamal) April 26, 2020
“In the 40 minutes I spent there, I saw many people with symptoms of the virus being turned away on account of no primary contact or travel history. This doesn’t make sense anymore -- asking for travel history after having stopped all flights and other modes of transport since a month ago,” said, Priya, who shared her ordeal on Twitter.
The doctors had asked her to return when she had shortness of breath. She was prescribed some antibiotics and her body aches got worse and she could not sleep all night, she says.
Soon after her post on Twitter went viral and gained a lot of attention on Sunday, doctors had called her back to get tested. However, Priya is not the only one who had to face such a harrowing experience.
There have been cases in the outpatient (OP) wards of the state-run Gandhi Hospital and King Koti Hospital being sent back and denied tests, despite developing strong symptoms. A doctor from Gandhi Hospital, however, denied the claims and said most patients were being tested.
“I self-isolated myself from Day 2 onwards. My husband is supporting and helping manage things. But it has been really stressful for us because what if I have it? My daughter is upset, she cannot come close to me,” Priya told News18.
A Twitter user with the handle ‘justwin05’ who wrote back on Priya’s post said the person had faced a similar experience.
“I faced the same… I was rejected for testing at King Koti hospital. As I have 10-month-old baby, I kept myself away from him….” the user said.
The user had also mentioned that his/her symptoms had subsided after a month.
Hyderabad has been identified as a ‘COVID-19 hotspot’ in Telangana with 50 percent of cases being reported from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation limits.
A five-member Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) is in the city to assess the situation and preparedness of the K Chandrashekar Rao-led government in tackling the outbreak.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, people living in hotspot areas and who develop symptoms of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) must be tested via RT-PCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) within seven days of developing symptoms.
Lack of transparency from the government on testing patterns has only worsened the situation. Health experts are pointing out that the state is lagging behind in testing.
State government data says it has conducted 375 tests per million people compared to the national average of 254, as of April 19.
However, it is still short of testing when compared to neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The immediate neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh is conducting 961 tests per million people, as of April 22, according to the state government.
“Definitely, the state needs to conduct more testing and a lot needs to be done. We have a lot of containment zones in the GHMC (Hyderabad) area and we need aggressive testing there to see how far is the spread of the virus,” Dr Sanjeev Singh, Indian Medical Association Secretary (Telangana), told News18.
A recent order by the state’s chief secretary stating that ‘asymptomatic secondary contacts’ will not be tested and not brought to government quarantine centres has drawn criticism from health experts.
The state Health Department could not be reached immediately for a comment. However, sources said the government has been following the ICMR guidelines for testing.