On June 20, the number of fresh Covid-19 positive cases in one day in West Bengal stood at 441, while that of patients discharged was 562. The dedicated number of Covid-19 beds in both state-run and private hospitals stood at 10,340. A month later on July 20, the daily new positive cases stood at 2,282 and the daily discharge 1,535. The dedicated Covid beds increased to 11,239.
While the gap between new positive cases and discharged patients hovered over 700 per day, the state government in an entire month only managed to increase 899 dedicated Covid beds in hospitals across the state, according to the data released by the state government in the health bulletins.
In an attempt to reduce the burden from hospitals, the government said those with mild symptoms or were asymptomatic in nature may choose to stay in home isolation and opt for home treatment. Following ICMR guidelines, seven days after being admitted, patients were asked to vacate beds once they developed signs of improvement. Even separate facilities were opened to facilitate patients with mild symptoms and given assurance of re-admission if they required ventilators and oxygen support.
However, health experts feel that aggressive Covid bed allocation measures must be taken to accommodate new patients in hospitals.
“This selective bed allocation in hospitals will not solve the present crisis. Total capacity of beds must be increased. About 80 per cent of the total healthcare facility must be dedicated for the treatment of Covid patients. If we cannot control the spike in new cases, then aggressive bed allocation measures must be taken to increase the total bed capacity in hospitals. This is the need of the hour,” said eminent doctor and cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar.
In a bid to arrest the rise in fresh cases, the state government has announced a fresh lockdown of two days per week. According to the government, the lockdown could reduce the spread of the infection, free up hospital beds and break the chain of transmission.
“This partial lockdown will check the spread of the infection to certain extent. But about 20,000 to 25,000 daily Covid tests must be conducted, especially in areas that have seen a rapid rise in infection,” said Sarkar.
A detailed analysis of the data shows that the discharge rate was 47.79% on June 15 and it gradually increased in the second half of June. On June 30, it became 65.35%, while it was above 65% up to July 8. It touched its peak on July 4 when the discharge rate was 66.72%. After that, it gradually decreased because, the number of positive cases recorded since then was higher than the number of people discharged from the hospital. On July 20, the discharge rate stood at 59.01%.
However, in July, the number of people discharged from hospital was more than the number of people discharged in March, April, May and June. From March to June, the total number of people discharged was 12,130 and the number of people discharged from July 1 to July 21 was 15,905, which is almost 131% increase in just 21 days. In July, the number of people tested positive per day also increased from 600 to over 2,000. So, in July itself, the discharge rate is only 55.86%.
TMC MP and doctor Santanu Sen told The Indian Express that the fresh lockdown will stop the acute crisis of beds in hospitals. “Firstly, people need to cooperate with the state government as it alone cannot combat the situation. People have to be aware of the situation and remain alert. Secondly, the fresh lockdown will prevent the acute crisis of beds. A reduction in new cases will result in availability of beds. This will help the government tackle the present situation,” he said.
Noted virologist Amitabha Nandy laid emphasis on community diagnosis and making healthcare facilities available for all sections of people. He also said the state government must classify the disease in three stages to reduce the burden on healthcare.
“Patients in stage 1 and 2 categories must be treated at home. The stage 3 patients should go to hospitals. There should not be complications like bed availability or financial burden on patients. For that, there must be a dashboard on the number of beds available. The real data on bed availability must be provided to help the patients out. Scientific research on Covid must be encouraged by the government,” Nandy told The Indian Express.
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