To ensure that it is prepared to tackle the increasing number of COVID-19 patients in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government is planning a 250 per cent increase in the number of hospital beds and a massive scale up of community quarantine facilities to accommodate asymptomatic patients and high-risk contacts.
With the number of active cases still doubling after every seven days in Mumbai, the state public health department has projected that going by the current rate of infection, the number of cases in the city may rise to 70,000 by mid-May.
While pointing out that the rate of cases doubling had slowed down from three days to seven days, state health authorities want the BMC to ramp up infrastructural arrangements in a big way to treat more patients, and eventually flatten the infection curve.
Concerned over the high rate of infection and mortality in Mumbai, even an inter-ministerial central team of the Union Home Ministry, which has been assessing the situation in the city for the last three days, had on Wednesday directed state officials to augment institutional quarantining arrangements, expressing dissatisfaction over the arrangements in the dense slum pockets in particular.
On Thursday, at a deliberation via video conference between the central team, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and senior state and BMC officials, the scale-up plan was discussed.
At present, BMC has acquired facilities for quarantining 23,000 people. These are being used to isolate high-risk (14,000) and asymptomatic patients (8,000). With about 85 to 90 per cent of the patients, who have tested positive so far being asymptomatic, the plan is to augment institutional quarantine facilities to accommodate at least 60,000 to 63,000 people.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said school complexes, large exhibition centres and marriage halls will be acquired for the purpose. The BMC health officials are of the opinion that all of them may not be needed, but the civic body is not ready to take chances.
Plans for an immediate ramp up of hospital beds is in progress as well. In civic-run and private hospitals, BMC has so far made arrangements for about 2,000 beds to treat COVID-19 patients. In anticipation of more cases, the plan is to ramp this up to 7,000, with civic and government-run hospitals alone making up for 3,400 of these.
State Principal Secretary Manisha Mhaiskar, who is overseeing hospital management in the city for COVID-19 control operations, said: “When we began the operations, the BYL Nair hospital (now dedicated for COVID-19 patients) was a 40-bed set up. It will become a 320-bed specialised facility by this weekend. Plans are to augment it to 1,000 beds. Similarly, plans are also to enhance the capacity of Seven Hills Hospital (also a dedicated COVID-19 care facility) from 620 beds to 1,000 beds.”
To scale up operations, state-run Sir Gokuldas Tejpal and St George’s hospitals have been added to the pool. “They will add another 500 to 600 beds, while the civic-run Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari will provide 150 beds. BMC’s Kasturba hospital already has 125 beds,” said Mhaiskar.
As a plan B for the eastern suburbs, the BMC has drawn up an additional plan to convert Ghatkopar’s Rajawadi hospital as a dedicated COVID-19 care facility if the need arises.
On Wednesday, Uddhav had a meeting with civic officials over the ramp-up plan. “The doubling rate of cases has improved. It is now come down to seven days. We plan to better it further,” said Mhaiskar.
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