WITH experts foreseeing a rise in COVID-19 cases over the next few days, at least two medical facilities, the Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation-run Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai, have been set aside exclusively for COVID-19 patients.
While the 120-year-old Victoria Hospital, run by the Karnataka government, has been designated as the first exclusive hospital for COVID-19 patients in the state, in Mumbai, the BMC has tied up with H N Reliance Hospital, owned by Reliance Industries Ltd, to set aside a 100-bed isolation ward in Seven Hills Hospital. The rest of the hospital is already being used to quarantine suspected cases of COVID-19.
On the COVID-19 ward at Seven Hills Hospital, a statement from H N Reliance hospital said, “This first-of-its-kind-in-India centre is fully funded by Reliance Foundation and includes a negative pressure room that helps in preventing cross-contamination and helps control infection.”
The beds have been equipped with bio-medical equipment such as ventilators, 120-yr-old hospital set aside, 100-bed ward readied as states gear up pacemakers, dialysis machines and patient monitoring devices. The hospital has also offered to set up quarantine facilities for international passengers.
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In Bengaluru, following a meeting with healthcare experts on Sunday and Monday morning to assess the COVID-19 situation, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announced that the 1,200-bed government-run Victoria Hospital – which currently caters to patients from low income groups – in the old City Market in Bengaluru would be converted into a dedicated COVD-19 hospital.
“We have decided to create a separate block of 1,200 beds at the Victoria Hospital and another 1,200 will be pooled up at a private hospital,’’ the CM said.
The decision means that the hospital, with an average occupancy of 60 per cent beds, will have to, over the next few days, clear all its existing patients, who will either be discharged or shifted to other government facilities.
One of the key factors behind the government identifying Victoria Hospital as a dedicated COVID-19 facility is the fact that the government hospital has the highest number of ventilators among Bengaluru hospitals, something that will have to be pressed into service if patients slip into acute respiratory distress.
“We have started discharging patients in order to free up beds to prepare to be officially designated as a COVID-19 hospital. We have as many as 45 ventilators,’’ Resident Medical Officer at the hospital, Dr R Srinivasa, said.
Being a teaching hospital, Victoria has a large supply of medical staff in the form of PG students and house surgeons, apart from its regular medical, nursing and general staff.
“There will be a complete lockdown of the hospital and no other patients will be allowed. This is the thinking. We do not know why Victoria Hospital was chosen but we are willing to work in whatever situation we are thrown into,’’ said a doctor from the respiratory clinic at the hospital.
At present, Victoria Hospital only checks suspected COVID-19 cases and has an NIV-linked testing facility for the virus in its microbiology department.
There have been some concerns about the choice of Victoria Hospital as a COVID-19 hospital with some medical experts suggesting that facilities for infectious diseases are usually located on the outskirts of cities.
“The choice of the Victoria Hospital is strange. It has a huge turnover of poor patients on a daily basis and it may be difficult to restrict the flow of people through the hospital premises,’’ said a medical expert on one of the advisory committees created by the Karnataka government for COVID-19.
Located within the campus of the British-era hospital, which is now attached to the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), are also the Vani Vilas maternity hospital, the Minto Eye Care hospital, an ultra-modern BMCRI super speciality hospital and a nephro-urology hospital.
Cardiac surgeon and founder-chairman of the Narayana Health chain of hospitals, Dr Devi Shetty, whom the government has been regularly consulting, however, insisted that Victoria Hospital was best suited for Covid-19 patients.
“There are around 80,000 persons with COVID-19 infection in Karnataka and as per estimates, Bengaluru have around 16,000 patients. The city alone will need around 1,000 to 2,500 beds in the ICU for COVID-19 patients. I am not saying (the patients) will start showing up two weeks from now but when they start showing up, they will come in floods.
That will paralyse the entire health care system unless we have large dedicated hospitals for COVID-19,’’ Dr Shetty said.
“Fortunately, Victoria Hospital has a large number of ventilated beds. It will be ideal. It will be easier to manage a large number of patients in one location,’’ the cardiac surgeon said.
About 55 km from Mumbai, another isolation facility has been set up at the Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and handed over to district officials for treating confirmed COVID-19 cases.
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