Thanks to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the extension wing of Maharashtra’s largest state-run hospital is expected to become operational in a couple of days, almost a decade behind its original schedule.
The structure of a new 11-storey extension building at the Sassoon General Hospital in Pune had been completed a few years ago, but all the ancillary works, purchase of medical equipment, and other infrastructural works like power connection remained pending.
In the last week of February, just weeks before the coronavirus outbreak reached Maharashtra, the state government finally gave its go-ahead to complete the works and approved a spending of Rs 41 crore on the hospital. With Pune emerging as one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots in the country, the state government’s decision couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
By next week, the new extension building, eventually meant to be developed as a super-speciality wing, but declared a dedicated COVID-19 facility for the time being, will start attending to patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
“We expect that in the next two to three days, patients will start to be housed in the newly-created isolation wards of the extension building. The ICU section will also become functional by that time. We are looking to make at least three floors functional immediately, and the other floors would become ready in the following few days,” Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram told The Indian Express.
The fifth and seventh floors of the building would house the isolation wards and the ICU, while a special OPD would be created on the ground floor, where people showing symptoms of cough, cold and fever would be screened, their swab samples collected, and tested at the hospital’s own laboratory. Right now, almost 50 samples are being tested on an average at the hospital every day, Ajay Chandanwale, dean of the B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital, told The Indian Express.
On Saturday, workers at the building site were fixing bedside lockers in the isolation wards, intravenous saline stands were being set up in the ICUs, and the medical gas pipeline system, which needs to remain operational 24 hours, was being installed. In just about three weeks, the building has been transformed from being an ignored and incomplete concrete structure to a ready-t0-be functional hospital.
The ICU wing would be able to serve 50 patients at a time, and ventilators for these have been procured. The isolation wards would have 100 beds to start with. The work of installing a liquid oxygen tank with a capacity of 11,000 litres has just been completed. The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited provided a new power connection of 604 KW within 36 hours of a request being placed by the hospital. The air conditioning system has been made functional within a week.
Naval Kishore Ram and Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar have personally monitored the work to ensure quick permissions of relevant authorities, and had to use their special powers to get the work expedited.
“This is an exceptional situation, and despite the lockdown, we were able to get permissions and responses to our tender for the medical materials which came from different parts of the country,” Rajendra Rahane, superintending engineer of PWD, Pune circle, told The Indian Express.
District collector Ram said that in the last two weeks, more than Rs 12 crore has been sanctioned to fast-track works including laying gas pipelines and completing plumbing works.
More than 250 people in Pune have so far tested positive for the virus, 29 of whom have died, making the city one of the worst-affected areas in the country. Most of them are being treated in the Sassoon General Hospital. With the number of cases expected to only go up, the new facility would be critical to handling the increased load on the hospitals in the coming days.
“We can scale up the bed strength in the new building to 700 (from the 100 to start with). But our first priority is to get the facility operational as quickly as possibly and start providing quality care to the patients,” Ram said. The hospital has begun identifying doctors to serve in the new building, along with support staff.
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