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Monday, September 28, 2020

As Panchkula district runs out of critical care Covid beds, death toll mounts

Struggling to keep up with the constant and rising in-flow of positive patients from all age groups, doctors and authorities have been grappling to match pace.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula | September 17, 2020 7:51:38 am
Panchkula covid cases, Panchkula coronavirus cases, coronavirus cases Panchkula, Chandigarh news, city news, Indian ExpressAt a testing centre in Panchkula. (File)

SEVERE LACK of critical care beds, increasing patient load, overwhelmed healthcare system, oxygen scarcity and limited resources have now impaired the Panchkula administration’s response to the raging pandemic which has already claimed 53 lives in the district as yet.

The steep surge in cases, which began in August has become the cause for the inadvertent rise in the number of deaths reported across Panchkula district, including that of a 26-year-old woman, a 34-year-old man and two 14-year-old boys, giving authorities a cause to worry.

Struggling to keep up with the constant and rising in-flow of positive patients from all age groups, doctors and authorities have been grappling to match pace.

In an attempt to prevent deaths and identify cases at initial stages, Panchkula has ramped up sampling but the strategy has not made a significant difference in the number of deaths being reported. Sources in the Administration said that the mounting number of covid deaths is “troubling” for the district and for the state. One of the key problems in managing the deaths is the lack of infrastructure and the monopoly of three private hospitals of the district– Ojas Hospital, Paras Hospital and Alchemist Hospital– on which the lives of residents rely.

This dependency on private hospitals to prevent deaths and admit patients needing critical care has proven to be the biggest hurdle for the administration. A senior district administration official, while talking to The Indian Express and not wanting to be identified, revealed that “the upsurge in cases is uneventful but the deaths are definitely giving us jitters. Depending on three private hospitals for our seriously-ill patients has been the biggest problem.”

As per the official, the private hospitals have been taking in asymptomatic patients under their care which has led to an evident lack of beds for those severely-ill. “Most of the beds dedicated to seriously symptomatic patients lie in private hospitals. The civil hospital has only 10 such beds. We have had to take stringent steps to ensure that the private beds are only used by patients who actually need them,” he said.

In orders passed by the district administration on September 12 and 14, it was stated that “a severe surge is being reported in the number of patients having severe health conditions such as lung infections et al.” It further read that while asymptomatic cases are being managed at several Covid Care Centres, “it has come to notice that private hospitals having dedicated Covid facilities (ICU beds and ventilators) have been occupied by a number of such patients who do not require intensive care at certain point of time… the private dedicated Covid hospitals is not in consonance with the prevailing conditions and may either be discharged or down referred to facility/beds as per requirement.”

A committee of doctors for the same had also been formed to scrutinise patients admitted at private hospitals for more than seven days, regarding their continuation of admission.

In another subsequent order issued Monday, three nodal officers were also appointed to streamline and strengthen the coordination between the district administration and the management of private hospitals.

Meanwhile, the doctors on Covid duty, not wanting to be identified, said that “the situation inside is turning grim.”

“We are running out of beds at a pace we cannot manage. Securing consistent oxygen supply has already become a task. We have never had a strong infrastructure but all steps we took to improve our conditions have stopped being sufficient now. We are all just waiting for the peak to come and get this over with,” said a senior doctor of the civil hospital.

The doctor added, “We have limited resources. While no deaths were reported in the initial months till June, we now report deaths each day. The administration might blame it on late reporting by patients but it is actually a failure of the administration in ramping up health facilities. The patients might have or have not been cured but the part where we have been unable to give our 100 per cent to each one of them is what is troublesome.”

The district had recorded three Covid-related deaths by August 10. CMO Panchkula Dr Jasjeet Kaur, when asked about the issues, said, “Panchkula is witnessing a shortage of ICU beds as critical patients from the entire region are getting treatment in these hospitals. Efforts are on to add more beds as soon as possible.”

Out of the 53 deaths reported as yet, 50 persons had co-morbidities including chronic kidney disease, diabetes, tuberculosis and hypertension.

The district currently has 61 ventilators along with 81 ICU beds. It has an additional 1,200 beds for patients requiring moderate and asymptomatic care.

A team of approximately 110 doctors across the district have been handling the pandemic in Panchkula. Almost each doctor by now has become a part of at least five teams as they act as nodal officers, Covid doctors, run OPDs, collect Covid samples, conduct operational functions, data collection and updation of the same on websites, conduct on-ground surveys, attend meetings for strategic discussions, assess cases and deaths and look after patients in home isolation other than conducting their otherwise day-to-day tasks of managing chronic patients and enforcing several central government health schemes.

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