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Bengaluru hospital launches ‘ICU on Wheels’ after critical patient turned away for want of bed; deaths soar

The crisis of hospital beds, especially ICU ventilator beds in Bengaluru, is reflected in the spiralling Covid deaths in the city, which crossed the 100-mark for the first time on Friday, and the constant scream of ambulance sirens rending the air in the capital.

Written by Johnson Abraham | Bengaluru |
Updated: April 24, 2021 12:20:43 am
Karnataka coronavirus cases, COVID-19, Bengaluru coronavirus cases, Bengaluru covid-19 deaths, Bengaluru news, indian expressFamily members and relatives wait for the funeral of a COVID-19 victim at a crematorium. (PTI Photo)

‘ICU on Wheels’, a dedicated new facility at the government-run Victoria Hospital in central Bengaluru for critical Covid patients, arrived Friday evening, albeit a little too late for the kin of a seriously-ill 40-year-old patient, in urgent need of an ICU ventilator bed, who were turned away and asked to look for another hospital after 30 minutes of anxious wait.

The family was told there was no such bed available and advised to try another government hospital in Yelahanka, about 25 kms away in the north of the city. “We arrived here from Sagar Apollo Hospital (in the south) and are now being told to go to Yelahanka. We don’t know if he’ll survive the journey,” said an attendant of the patient.

From across government hospitals in Bengaluru, there are heart-wrenching stories of critical Covid-19 patients dying in wait of allotment of ICU ventilator beds. There are reports as well of mild and moderate patients sitting for up to three days in wheelchairs, strapped to oxygen machines, waiting in the reception area of hospitals for allotment of a vacant bed with oxygen supply.

“I pulled some strings and got my relative a bed,” said a man who arrived with a patient even as others were told that there were no beds at the Victoria Hospital. One family reported paying a bribe of Rs 40,000 for a bed at a state-run healthcare facility in south Bengaluru after their elderly mother sat out three days in a wheelchair (with oxygen supply), waiting for an oxygenated bed to be allotted.

The crisis of hospital beds, especially ICU ventilator beds in Bengaluru, is reflected in the spiralling Covid deaths in the city, which crossed the 100-mark for the first time on Friday, and the constant scream of ambulance sirens rending the air in the capital.

A total of 124 Covid 19 deaths reported by state health authorities on Friday is the highest-ever single-day toll recorded in Bengaluru across the first and second waves of the pandemic. The number of fatalities Friday surpassed the previous highest of 97 recorded on April 19 and is way higher than any single-day deaths logged in 2020.

The record number of Covid deaths in Bengaluru in the second wave — resulting in seven crematoriums in the city working overtime to cremate 20 to 25 bodies (on an average) arriving each day compared to four or five in normal times — have accrued over the last few days with the toll reading 97, 92, 70, 68 and 124.

Ambulances lined up at Bommanhalli crematorium for the last rites of COVID-19 victims amid surge in coronavirus cases in Bengaluru. (Photo: PTI)

There have been 611 deaths in Bengaluru since April 16, compared to 333 deaths between April 1 and 15 and 301 deaths from January to March, taking the overall toll in the state capital to 944. The deaths, so far, in April are now in line to cross the highest recorded for a month in the city during the first wave — 970 deaths in September, last year.

The highest number of deaths recorded in a single day during the first wave was 75 in the month of July. The capital reported a significant surge in deaths month-on-month during the first wave — July (962), August (950), September (970) and October (897).

The peak case fatality rate during the first wave was 1.84 percent in July 2020 (out of 52,406 positive cases), while the rate in April 2021 is relatively lower at 0.54 percent (1,32,302 positive cases), according to data from the war room of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.

The sharp spike in Covid 19 cases and deaths has now resulted in Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa saying that the situation has gone “out of control”.

At a meeting with health officials Friday, Yediyurappa ordered a 10-fold increase in ICU ventilator beds in Bengaluru. There are officially only 117 ICU ventilator beds, across 17 government hospitals, dedicated to Covid patients in the city. The state government is also now trying to get private hospitals with more than 30 beds to hand over 80 percent of their beds to the government to admit Covid patients. It has also increased the number of available crematoriums from seven to 12 for Covid deaths and is offering more land around Bengaluru to be turned into graveyards.

“All nursing homes and hospitals with up to or less than 30 beds should mandatorily treat non-Covid patients. All hospitals that have bed capacity of more than 30 will now have to dedicate 80 percent of the beds and ICU facility to the state government. So far, it was only 50 percent and now it will be 80 percent,” health minister K Sudhakar said.

“In 15 days, at least 2,000 makeshift ICU beds will be ready. As many as 800 of them will have ventilators. On the Victoria hospital campus, 250 ICU beds will be set up and in another new building, 150-200 ICU beds will be arranged. Among these, 100 will have ventilators. Makeshift hospitals will also be set up at Bowring, RGICD and NIMHANS,” the health minister said.

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