Swamped with 2,025 extra ventilators under PM Cares, the Karnataka government introduced a scheme to loan them out to private hospitals for Covid-19 treatment. However, the scheme has attracted little interest from the hospitals on account of a shift to usage of high-flow oxygen as a key recourse for Covid-induced breathing trouble.
Since September 23, when the health department introduced the scheme, only five private hospitals have come forward to sign agreements to borrow ventilators.
“We conveyed the message to all districts, but the response is not as expected. So far five hospitals from around Bengaluru have signed agreements,” said Dr M Selvaraj, a deputy health director who is in-charge of ventilator and oxygen supplies to hospitals.
The health department had announced on September 23 that private hospitals can reach out to the government for ventilators to treat Covid-19 patients. “In view of the surge in Covid-19 cases, the need of critical care for Covid patients has also increased. Approval has been obtained to provide ventilators wherever necessary to private medical establishments in the state,” state Health Commissioner Pankaj Pandey said in a recent circular.
The scheme involves signing of an MoU between private hospitals and health officials to borrow ventilators for an initial period of six months to essentially treat Covid-19 patients referred to private hospitals by the government free of cost.
According to health department officials, the scheme was drawn up after the Karnataka government discovered that 2,025 ventilators (out of 2,149 that were requisitioned) were in excess of the capacity that could be utilised in government hospitals.
“We have got 2,025 ventilators under the central scheme. We have saturated our intake capacity in government hospitals. We are assessing the oxygen and other capacities at private hospitals and allotting the excess ventilators to them,” said Dr Om Prakash Patil, state Director of Health Services.
“We have asked district officials to call all private players in a district and have asked for the district health official and surgeons to be taken into confidence so that they can certify people who have hospitals and can put ventilators to good use,” said Dr Selvaraj. “These ventilators are brand new, yet to be unpacked.”
According to Dr R Ravindra, president of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, the huge demand for ventilators seen in May-June has subsided.
“We really don’t need ventilators now. We need high-flow oxygen canules. Secondly, we do not have staff. We need trained nurses — since patients who go on ventilators are really sick and the staff has to be very good,” Dr Ravindra said.
The 2,025 ventilators procured by the state were supplied under the PM Cares fund, which allocated Rs 2,000 crore for supply of 50,000 ‘Made-in-India’ ventilators to government-run Covid hospitals in all states and Union territories.
In an effort to increase the number of ICU ventilator beds available in Karnataka for Covid-19 patients by utilising the ventilators supplied under PM Cares, the Karnataka government supplied 438 ventilators to 148 taluk hospitals between July and August.
The government is also scrambling to put infrastructure in place in government hospitals so they can be equipped with ICU ventilator beds. In cities like Bengaluru, there is still a big shortage of ICU ventilator beds in government hospitals, with 16 hospitals having only 24 beds between them. As of Thursday, only two of the 24 beds were vacant.
Out of a total of 505 ICU ventilator beds available across the 149 government and private sector hospitals, only 110 were available as of Thursday evening – with 108 being in the private sector.
“In a worst case scenario, the ventilators we have on hand are still going to be required. We are in the range of around 6 lakh infections in Karnataka. Under the assumption that this will be 7 lakh by mid-October, we are in a position to take care of patients. However, they have to be deployed fast in order to be useful in emergencies,” said Dr Selvaraj.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines