With the ‘jumbo’ Covid care facility at CoEP yet to be fully functional and Sassoon General Hospital facing its own share of oxygen supply-related problems, large private hospitals in Pune are not only sharing the maximum burden of treating Covid-19 patients but also grappling with serious healthcare staff shortage, with an attrition rate of 8 to 9 per per cent, and rising.
There are over 38,000 active Covid-19 cases in Pune district, and areas under Pune Municipal Corporation have been reporting over 2,000 Covid-19 cases daily, while neighbouring PCMC has reported over 1,200 cases daily. The city has also seen an influx of patients not just from rural areas of the district but also from other districts like Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Satara, Sangli and even districts of Marathwada.
Six months into the worldwide pandemic, a sense of fatigue has now set in as private hospital administrators admit to shortage of healthcare staff and the steady rise in number of non-Covid patients who require hospitalisation, but there just aren’t enough beds.
Dr Madhur Rao, senior deputy medical administrator of KEM Hospital, said that currently, the hospital was short of 160 nurses and 25 medical officers. “We are working with a shortage of staff in both Covid-19 and non-Covid ICUs. We feel that authorities should permit third-year nursing students to come and work so that these challenges can be addressed temporarily,” he said.
Dr Sanjay Pathare, medical director at Ruby Hall Clinic, which has 400 dedicated beds to treat Covid-19 patients, has appealed to the state government to free up the beds as the treatment of non-Covid-19 patients is getting delayed. “We are at a breaking point… and are even trying to search for an agency for more healthcare staff,” said Dr Pathare. “The stress levels are high and we have to face tremendous pressure from various sections of society to admit patients when bed availability is already strained”.
At Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital, Medical Director Dr Dhananjay Kelkar said that Covid-19 cases have been “relentless”. The hospital has over 400 beds for Covid-19 patients and 390 for non-Covid patients. “The workload has been immense and now there is a huge sense of fatigue,” said Dr Kelkar.
At Sahyadri Hospital, Group Medical Director Dr Sunil Rao said that in the last six months, at least 60-70 junior doctors and 200 nurses from across their hospitals have quit as they were offered attractive incentives and double salaries by government-run hospitals. “We have already increased the number of Covid-19 beds to 300 across our hospital branches in the city, and at the branches in Karad and Nashik. But non-Covid patients are now delaying seeking treatment,” said Dr Rao.
Dr H K Sale, executive director with Noble Hospital, said at least 40 junior doctors had left and 140 nurses had quit. “The situation is worsening. Usually, the ratio is one nurse for at least six patients but now as many as 14-15 patients are being looked after by a single nurse,” said Dr Sale.
Vinod Sawantwadkar, CEO of Jehangir Hospital, admitted that the attrition rate was nearly 7 to 8 per cent and while the hospital was following government norms on the price cap, services such as sanitation or even procuring oxygen were now being charged at higher costs.
At Bharati Hospital, Deputy Medical Director Dr Jitendra Oswal said there was a need for at least 600 healthcare staff to look after 330 Covid-19 patients and 190 non-Covid ones.
“The core people who are required to manage Covid-19 patients, including those from critical care medicine, medicine and other departments, are supported by allied specialties, with rheumatologists, gastroenterologists and even paediatric surgeons working in Covid-19 wards and ICUs. The FLU outpatient department is, in fact, being coordinated by the head of the department of surgery, and now homeopathy faculty doctors have been roped in to take on the work of monitoring blood pressure, fever and assessing the progression of the disease as there is a shortage of nurses,” said Dr Oswal.
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