Delhi govt to set up country's first plasma bank: Kejriwal

New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) The Delhi government will set up a first-of-its-kind 'plasma bank' in the country for treatment of COVID-19 patients, as convalescent plasma therapy has shown 'encouraging' results in city hospitals, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday.

Addressing an online media briefing, he said the bank will be operational in the next two days. It will be set up at the Delhi government-run Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences and doctors or hospitals will have to approach it for plasma if a COVID-19 patient needs the same.

Kejriwal also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore for the family of senior doctor Assem Gupta of the city government-run LNJP Hospital who died battling COVID-19, and said the society has 'lost a very valuable fighter'.  The 52-year-old doctor served in the frontline of the war against the pandemic at the government facility, and died of the novel coronavirus infection in an ICU of a private hospital on Sunday.  The chief minister said that the AAP government will encourage those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma. A helpline will also be set up for queries related to donation of plasma.

He said that his government will make transportation arrangements for those willing to donate their plasma. Kejriwal said relatives of a COVID-19 patient are free to give plasma to the patient and it is not necessary to only donate to the bank.

'The plasma bank will be the first-of-its-kind for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Perhaps, it will be the first plasma bank in the country,' he said.

The need for setting up such a bank was felt when people were running from pillar to post to get plasma, he said, adding that both government and private hospitals will be able to get plasma from the facility.

Kejriwal, however, said that plasma therapy is not a 'sanjeevani booti' (divine herb ).

'Usually, it is difficult to save lives of those patients who are in the last stage or with comorbidities and are on ventilator support. Those patients who are in a moderate stage...this therapy is very helpful for them,' he said.

In the plasma therapy, antibodies from blood of patients, who have recovered from coronavirus, are used to treat infected patients. It is aimed at assessing the efficacy of convalescent plasma to limit complications in COVID patients.

Kejriwal said that his government has so far conducted clinical trials of plasma therapy on 29 COVID-19 patients and the result was 'encouraging'.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, who had tested positive for COVID-19, was administered plasma therapy. He has now recovered.

The chief minister said in the Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital, plasma therapy was conducted on 35 COVID-19 patients and of them, 34 were saved and one patient died. Similarly, 49 patients were administered therapy in private hospitals and 46 people recovered from the deadly virus.

Requesting people to come forward and donate their plasma, he said, 'In the entire life, there is a very little chance to save someone's life and you (those recovered from COVID-19) have got this chance,' he said.

Incidentally, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also launched convalescent plasma therapy-cum-trial project for treatment of critical COVID-19 patients with a state medical education department official claiming that it is the 'largest initiative of its kind in the world'.

Kejriwal also asserted that there is no shortage of beds in the national capital as several steps have been taken to effectively deal with the COVID-19 situation.

'At present, we have 13,500 beds and of these, only 6,000 beds have been occupied so far,' he said.

On Sunday, Delhi recorded 2,889 fresh coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the city over the 83,000-mark, while the death toll from the disease mounted to 2,623.

The number of containment zones in the city also jumped to 421 on Sunday from 280 after the re-mapping of such areas.

On Gupta's death, Kejriwal tweeted, 'Dr Aseem Gupta was a senior doctor, and was serving COVID patients for the last few months with his duty being in the ICU. His colleagues speak about the dedication and commitment with which he served patients,' Kejriwal said in an online press briefing.

The chief minister said, his wife, also a doctor, had contracted COVID-19 too, but has now recovered.

'It is because of people like him that we have been able to fight COVID-19. He is a big inspiration to us and we bow to his spirit of service to humanity. As a mark of honour, Delhi government will offer an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the family of Dr Gupta,' he said.  In a related development, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has made a slew of recommendations to the LNJP Hospital, a dedicated COVID-19 facility which had come under the criticism of the Supreme Court earlier this month.

The recommendations include monitoring of quality of food served to patients to providing psychological counselling to medical and paramedical staff on COVID-19 duty.

The report is based on the visit of a team of the NHRC, led by its member Jyotika Kalra, to the LNJP Hospital on June 11 for an on-spot inspection of the facility in the wake of allegations of mismanagement in handling the COVID-19 situation in the city. PTI BUN KND PR KJ