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With one in 10 Covid patients needing critical care, Tricity runs out of beds

For families of critically ill patients, finding a Level 3 bed is becoming an exercise in futility.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
April 28, 2021 10:24:56 am
Panchkula, COVID-19Huge rush at the COVID-19 testing center at Civil Hospital, Mohali on Tuesday. Express Photo: Jasbir Malhi

Tarun Kamboj has been hunting for a ventilator bed for his father since Saturday but without any success. He’s lost count of the calls he has made to help groups and hospitals, beseeching everyone to accommodate his father. Another family, that began its hunt on Sunday met with grief when its relative passed away on Tuesday.

The tricity, feted as a medicare hub in the region, is now spiralling into despair as it finds itself running out of critical care Covid beds. For families of critically ill patients, finding a Level 3 bed is becoming an exercise in futility.

Vrijesh (67) was admitted for Covid related complications at a private hospital in Panchkula till Sunday. But as red flags came up, the family started pursuing leads for ventilators. “The hospital he was being treated at did not have any free ventilator. We were told to find one outside,” says his daughter, Shivani (name changed). Despite searching for two days, they found no ventilator bed across the tricity. “He died late morning today,” she sobs.

Mangal Singh, 76, is fighting for his life at a private hospital in Chandigarh as his son Tarun desperately searches for a hospital which may provide his father a ventilator with dialysis. “It has been five days since I reached Chandigarh … I have contacted several doctors, volunteer organisations and hospitals but to no avail. All critical care beds are full,” laments Tarun, who came from Yamunanagar to Panchkula in October 22 when his father was detected with a chest infection. “He was not Covid positive despite being tested twice. He was treated for the infection at a private hospital in Mohali and put on dialysis. They discharged him two weeks later, saying he would require dialysis,” says Tarun. Mangal was taken back home where he tested positive.

“Hospitals in Yamunanagar put him on oxygen and suggested I take him back to Mohali. As we got here on Friday, his condition worsened but the Mohali hospital refused to take him in. I managed to get him admitted to a private hospital in Chandigarh but they don’t have a bed with ventilator an dialysis unit. I have been sleeping on the chairs outside and eating at hospital canteen,” says Tarun who is on leave from his job in the IT sector for the past one month.

His whole family back home has tested positive. “Even my mother’s health is failing. I don’t know what to do. My father really needs a ventilator bed. Every minute is crucial.”

There are many in dire need of a ventilator in the tricity. Prem Kumar (70), admitted at GMSH 16 required a ventilator urgently Tuesday noon. Rama Garg (57) in home isolation reported dipping oxygen levels and is on the lookout for an ICU bed. The family of Rohit Thakur (25) admitted in a private hospital in Chandigarh with 70 percent lung involvement, is also looking for a ventilator across the tricity and even outside.

Having failed to get an ICU bed, Vipul Jindal (42) in home isolation, is asking for leads to set up a home ICU. Lekh Ram Sharma (61) too is in “urgent need” of a ventilator “anywhere in the tricity.”

There are many others in a similar state of despair in a tricity short of beds.

‘Healthcare not prepared’

“We are not at all prepared for what is happening. There is an absolute shortage of beds. Though we have plenty of oxygen, we lack critical care beds necessary to deal with the current wave. This wave is putting every 10th patient in an ICU or on ventilator. The situation is very grim, everywhere. Nobody expected this, nobody is ready for it,” laments a senior doctor handling district healthcare arrangements.

Despite having more than 20 private hospitals, a 300-bed civil hospital in Panchkula, four government institutes, including PGI, GMCH 32, GMSH 16 and GH Sector 48, the tricity had only 600 critical care beds until recently.

Dr HK Kharbanda, running the Crawfed helpline to help Covid patients locate resources, told The Indian Express, “I have been in touch with almost all private hospitals and even government-aided ones, there is not a single ICU or ventilator bed across tricity. If you call a private hospital which does have a bed they demand Rs 50,000 in advance for booking it with no guarantee to hold it.” Kharbanda says his helpline, which became functional last week, receives an average 40-50 calls looking for critical care beds each day. “I have been able to help out a maximum of 2-3 persons each day.”

Even though the bed capacity is being ramped up, most of these are Level 1 (asymptomatic cases) and Level 2 (those requiring oxygen). There aren’t enough L3 beds required for critically ill patients.

“Ideally the government should ramp up Level 3 beds,” says Kharbanda.

DC Mohali Girish Dalyan says they have increased the bed capacity to 858 in the district. “We have also spoken to the army to make a 100-bed hospital,” he said.

But only 50 beds have been increased in the L3 category taking the total number of these beds to 236 in the district– all in private hospitals. “We are also downgrading patients not requiring L3 to L2,” added Dalyan.

Panchkula civil hospital, has merely 13 ICU beds though it has sought Bipaps and ventilators from NHM. Even after adding almost 50 L3 beds, Panchkula currently has less than 100 critical care beds.

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