Updated: November 19, 2020 8:55:40 am
A steady fall in Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru has seen beds now lying unoccupied in government medical colleges and hospitals in the city — which just months ago was grappling with shortage of beds. This has prompted municipal body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to reorient the focus on bed-blocking towards government hospitals and government medical colleges over those in its private counterparts.
Confirming the revision in the bed-blocking protocol, BBMP Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad said, “It has been observed that beds in private medical establishments are being blocked and filled up even as beds in government medical establishments remain vacant. This matter was also discussed during the recent Covid-19 review meeting convened by the Chief Secretary.”
The latest BBMP order issued on Wednesday directed Zonal Command and Control Centres (ZCCCs) to restrict bed blocking to government hospitals and medical colleges only. “This shall be followed until general and HDU (high dependency units) bed availability at government-run facilities falls below 10 per cent of overall availability,” the order mentioned.
The BBMP commissioner further said that the bed management system would release beds in private facilities only after an occupancy of 90 per cent is noted in government facilities. “ICU and ICU-ventilator beds shall also be preferably provided at government-run facilities. However, in exceptionally critical cases, where the nearest facility needs to be provided or specialised critical care of the patient mandates specific private facility admission, the ICU/ICU-V beds could be considered in private facilities,” he added.
Earlier, to ensure bed availability for all Covid-19 patients, the Department of Health and Family Welfare had made it compulsory to reserve 50 per cent of beds in private medical facilities in the city for patients referred by BBMP or government.
Overall, the fall in the number of Covid-19 cases since mid-October has directly lessened the burden of hospitals in the city as well. According the centralised hospital bed management system in the city, as many as 18,364 people were admitted to medical facilities for Covid-19 treatment from October 1 to 15. The same dropped to 10,972 during the latter half of the month. In the first half of November, it further dropped to 5,894.
As of Monday, only 17 per cent of the total Covid-19 hospital beds available in the city were occupied. A facility-wise breakdown of the same indicated an occupancy of 305 and 255 in government hospitals and medical colleges respectively. Meanwhile, another 904 and 460 people had occupied beds at private hospitals and medical colleges respectively.
Taking this trend into consideration, the Suvarna Aarogya Suraksha Trust — a panel in charge of implementing the state’s health insurance schemes — had written to the Health Department seeking a modification in the bed-blocking protocol.
‘People continue to prefer private hospitals’
However, volunteers working on field since the beginning of the pandemic noted that patients preferred getting treated at private hospitals, citing the quality of service. Tauseef Ahmed, a member of the Emergency Response Team (ERT), which helps patients book beds for Covid-19 treatment in the city, said, “Most calls that were directed to us sought bookings at private hospitals even when they were referred to major government facilities like Victoria Hospital, Bowring Hospital, and others by doctors at the diagnosing level. While our volunteers pitched beds at government facilities to those in need when finding a bed in private hospitals were a challenge, many chose to turn down the same, picking home isolation over getting an admission to a government hospital. This stigma needs to change first.”
However, he said the ERT had noted a considerable drop in the number of calls they received since the beginning of this month. “While we used to attend emergency calls till 4 am on most days, the team has been getting very few calls these days. Such calls are now been redirected to the zonal control rooms set up by the BBMP,” he said.
Human rights activist Tanveer Ahmed said each patient should be given a chance to choose from a private or public facility for treatment. “While the BBMP’s move to give government facilities the priority in bed-blocking would help patients get treatment at lower costs, quality of treatment offered there should be ensured to be in par with those offered in their private counterparts,” he said.
Bengaluru had 64,435 active cases on October 17 and it dropped to 17,707 on November 17. However, the capital city accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the total active Covid-19 cases across Karnataka.
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