After surging cases comes the infra shiver

Rutam Vora Monika Yadav TE Rajasimhan Ahmedabad | Updated on April 16, 2021

Unable to take on caseload, authorities scramble to boost bed capacity, supplies

If the steady rise in Covid cases over the last few weeks is alarming, the infrastructure bottleneck that the country is facing in its fight against the pandemic is nothing short of a nightmare. From Patna (Bihar) to Pune (Maharashtra) to Rajkot (Gujarat), the situation is the same everywhere with shortage of beds, lack of oxygen cylinders and scarcity of medicine remaining the common complaint.

“Patients are being brought in a critical condition, requiring oxygen or ventilator support. The number of new cases are so intense that most of the State-run hospitals have run out of beds. Some patients are being referred to private hospitals, wherever there is a bed available,” informed a doctor who is part of the Covid management team at Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital. Over a dozen ambulances with Covid patients were queued up at Gate no.8 of Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital close to midnight on Tuesday waiting for the hospital to arrange beds.

Says Dilip Jose, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Manipal Hospitals: “While we expect the drugs situation to improve shortly, the shortage of beds is likely to persist for several weeks.” The surge in Covid cases has put the hospital network under much stress in terms of availability of beds, including those in ICUs, as well as on maintaining essential medical supplies, he added.

In Pune, which is one of the worst affected in the country, the local administration has stepped up efforts to increase bed capacity and facilitate early detection of positive cases to prevent hospitalisation with timely medication.

Pune divisional commissioner Saurabh Rao said that younger kids are getting infected in big numbers.


Full Covid-19 hospitals

Aware of the gravity of the situation, authorities are scrambling to boost the infrastructure.

In fact, in Maharashtra – where hospitals and supplies like oxygen are in short supply – Mumbai alone is set to get three jumbo field hospitals.

In the national capital, the Kejriwal-government had declared 14 private hospitals including Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Indraprastha Apollo and Holy Family as “full Covid-19” hospitals and instructed them not to admit any non-Covid patients till further orders. Another 19 other private hospitals have been asked to reserve at least 80 per cent of their ICU beds for Covid-related treatment. Further, 82 private hospitals have also been asked to set aside at least 60 per cent of their ICU beds for Covid-19 patients, while 101 private hospitals have been directed to reserve at least 60 per cent of their ward bed capacity for Covid-related treatment.

When BusinessLine’s correspondent contacted Sri Ganga Ram Hospital for admission, she was told the Covid beds were full and was asked to enquire in the morning about the availability. They noted down the name and age of the patient along with the contact number for whom the admission is being sought.

In Tamil Nadu, currently 80,284 beds are available, of which 32,102 are with oxygen facility; 6,997 are with ICU; and 6,517 are with ventilators. In Chennai, the entire Presidency College’s men’s hostel has been converted into a Covid care centre.

The Gujarat government is adding 900 bed capacities in Ahmedabad with the help of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. Religious trusts and organisations too have come forward to convert their premises into wards for Covid patients.

The Andhra Pradesh government has made arrangements to ensure full functionality of medical infrastructure, put in place last year during the peak of pandemic. About 66 Covid hospitals and 22 Covid care centres have been set up across Andhra Pradesh.

In Kolkata, Alok Roy, Chair FICCI Health Services Committee and Chairman of Medica Group of Hospitals, said: “Given the experience of last year, most hospitals have been quick to ramp up facilities at a short notice. Medica has increased the number of Covid beds to 160 from around 20 over the last three weeks.”

Inputs from G Naga Sridhar, Anil Urs, Radheshyam Jadhav, Shobha Roy

Published on April 14, 2021

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