Updated: April 24, 2021 9:00:26 am
On Friday evening, an “ICU on wheels” arrived at Bengaluru’s government-run Victoria Hospital — a dedicated facility for seriously ill Covid-19 patients — with a 40-year-old patient looking for an ICU ventilator bed.
After about 30 minutes of waiting, the family of the patient was told there were no beds available and were asked to try another government hospital, located around 25 km away in Yelahanka. “We were sent from Sagar Apollo Hospital (in the south), now we are shunted to Yelahanka. We do not know if he will survive,” said an attendant of the patient.
Similar stories have emerged from across government hospitals in Bengaluru, with many Covid-19 patients dying while waiting for the allotment of ICU ventilator beds. There are also stories of mild and moderate patients sitting 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 Rs 40,000 bribe for a bed at a state facility in south Bengaluru after their elderly mother sat for three days, waiting for a bed to be allotted.
The crisis of hospital beds — especially ICU ventilator beds in Bengaluru — is reflected in the spiralling Covid-19 deaths in the city, recording 124 deaths on Friday — the first time the 100-mark was breached.
The record number of deaths has resulted in the seven Covid-19 crematoriums in the city working overtime to cremate the average 20-25 dead bodies arriving each day — compared to four or five in normal times.
The sharp spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths has resulted in Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa remarking that the situation has gone “out of control”. At a meeting with health officials on Friday, Yediyurappa ordered a 10-fold increase in ICU ventilator beds in Bengaluru.
At present, there are officially only 117 ICU ventilator beds dedicated for Covid-19 patients in the city across 17 government hospitals. The Karnataka government is now also trying to get private hospitals with more than 30 beds to hand over 80 per cent of their beds to the government for Covid-19 patients.
“All nursing homes and hospitals with up to and 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,” state 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. In 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,” he said.
The state government has also increased the number of available crematoriums from seven to 12 for Covid deaths and is providing land around Bengaluru for more graveyards.
However, the case fatality rate in the second wave of the pandemic at 0.54 per cent (out of 1,32,302 positive cases) is lower than the peak case fatality rate in the first wave was 1.84 per cent in July 2020 (out of 52,406 positive cases), according to data from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike war room.
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