India: MSF opens 100-bed COVID-19 treatment center in Bihar

Dr Nisha Mohan inspecting the COVID-19 treatment ward.

India 2020 © Garvit Nangia/MSF

NEW YORK/PATNA, JUNE 19, 2020—As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in India, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today opened a 100-bed temporary treatment center for COVID-19 patients in Patna, the capital of Bihar state in the northeast of the country.

The international medical humanitarian organization’s treatment center will offer inpatient care, health education, mental health support, and access to all essential drugs and medical supplies needed to manage moderate cases. This will help alleviate the strain on dedicated government-run COVID-19 treatment hospitals and allow them to focus on the most severe and critical cases.

“Responding to emergencies is at the core of what MSF does,” said Dr. Prince Mathew, MSF’s regional head of mission in Asia. “We are using our knowledge and experience in epidemic management to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Bihar state.”

The center—located in the former Patliputra Sports Complex in Patna Indoor Stadium—is fully managed by MSF. The 180 MSF staff there will initially provide medical care to patients with mild or moderate symptoms to support the isolation of confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as help reduce community spread.

“This pandemic affects us all,” said Dr. Mathew “For this reason, the response needs teamwork. Our partnership with the local health authorities enables us to increase treatment capacity, reduce mortality, and prevent infections in the state.”

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India has surpassed 380,000 as of June 19. Restrictions on the movement of people, which have been in place since early March, have lessened over the last few weeks in many areas. However, cases are expected to continue to rise. Some areas of the country are seen as hotspots or particularly vulnerable to outbreaks, such as Bihar, which has seen millions of people returning to the state from work in other parts of India.

As the pandemic evolves and oxygen demands are expected to exceed existing supplies, MSF’s focus will switch to providing high-flow oxygen to moderate and severe cases and dignified palliative care to those who require it. Teams are collaborating with the Bihar government and health authority, which will refer people with moderate and severe symptoms to the MSF facility.

“In these times when the world is grappling with a pandemic, it is essential for all stakeholders to work together and fight this battle against COVID-19,” said Mangal Pandey, the health minister in Bihar. “This initiative by MSF to open a temporary hospital to provide free treatment to COVID-19 positive patients in Patna is an excellent example of how every contribution counts, and the Bihar government wholeheartedly supports their work.”

MSF has been working in India since 1999, providing free-of-charge essential healthcare in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh. MSF has a long history of humanitarian medical work in Bihar over the last 10 years, including in Darbhanga district for malnutrition and in Hajipur for Kala Azar. Currently in Patna, MSF runs a treatment ward at the Guru Gobind Singh Hospital for the treatment of advanced HIV patients with severe complications.