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As panicked Covid-19 patients flock to hospitals, Mumbai stares at shortage of beds

Mumbai Covid-19:  Officials said people with even mild symptoms want to get admitted to hospitals. Also, while beds are available in government facilities, many prefer beds in private hospitals.  

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
March 28, 2021 11:11:55 pm
Mumbai lockdown, Mumbai covid news, mumbai coronavirus cases, mumbai covid hospital bedsBMC data shows that of 7,364 beds in public and private dedicated Covid hospitals, 1,941 are vacant, and of 5,378 beds in dedicated Covid health centres, 1,230 are vacant. (Picture for representation)

Mumbai faced a shortage of beds in private hospitals over the weekend, as it recorded over 13,000 Covid-19 cases on Saturday and Sunday. The city’s active case load stands at 45,140 cases at present.

In a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said Mumbai was likely to touch 10,000 cases a day in a few days.

The situation is worse in eastern suburbs covering Mulund, Kanjurmarg, Bhandup and Ghatkopar, and western suburbs stretching from Bandra till Borivali, where private hospitals are getting panicked phone calls from patients, especially senior citizens, who want admission even with mild symptoms.

JB Nagar resident Jaspal singh Matharu (71) tried to scout for a bed in Holy Spirit and then Seven Hills hospital on Sunday. When beds were not available there, his family began calling other hospitals. The family was able to secure a bed by late afternoon at BKC Jumbo centre.

Ashish Pednekar, aged 70, a Mulund resident, had to travel till Thane to get admission in Spandan hospital after hospitals in Mumbai said they had no vacant beds on Sunday. The family tried Fortis hospital, SL Raheja, and smaller nursing homes, they said,

In Lilavati hospital, chief operating officer Dr V Ravishankar said they have a waiting of eight patients for ICU beds in the hospital. “All Covid beds are full. There has been no vacancy in the past few days,” he said.

BMC data shows that of 7,364 beds in public and private dedicated Covid hospitals, 1,941 are vacant, and of 5,378 beds in dedicated Covid health centres, 1,230 are vacant. These are expected to fill fast in a few days. Mumbai is recording between 6,000-7,000 cases daily, of which 10-15 per cent seek hospital admission. With 700 patients getting admitted daily, and staying in hospital for 14 days on an average, the bed capacity will soon fall short.

In a meeting, the BMC decided to add 63 small nursing homes as Covid hospitals, so that it can add 2,000 beds, including 400 ICUs, to its tally. Currently, there are 243 ventilators and 2,279 oxygen beds available in Mumbai, but the bulk of vacant beds are in government centres.

“Most cases are from residential areas and high rises and they prefer private hospitals. We are counselling patients but they are not willing to go to jumbo centres,” said a member of the State Covid Task force.

Across Maharashtra, of 3.70 lakh isolation beds, 1.7 lakh are full. Doctors said until a fortnight ago, patients did not have to wait beyond an hour for a bed, but the waiting period has now stretched into hours, creating panic among families of senior citizens.

While the Mumbai civic body has issued a circular asking private hospitals to only admit patients through the BMC war rooms and make an exception for emergency medical cases, several private hospitals are directly admitting mild and moderately ill patients, who can be treated through home isolation.

In Bombay hospital, Dr Gautam Bhansali said patients are panicking, requesting for beds claiming their oxygen levels are low. “But when we admit them, their oxygen levels are normal and they have a mild infection. They are not willing to remain at home,” he said.

The BMC said it is going to make admission norms stringent to ensure private hospitals provide beds to needy patients. In Sunrise hospital, where a fire led to the death of 10 patients, 78 had been admitted. Of them, 28 patients were mildly ill and immediately went home after they were rescued from the fire. “This shows mildly ill patients are occupying beds in private facilities,” a BMC official said.

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