Updated: May 24, 2021 7:04:55 am
On May 17, Covid patient Sarasamma died while being transported to a government hospital in east Bengaluru, after waiting three days for allocation of a bed. On Thursday, one of those hunting for a bed was Sunil Kumar, who himself works in the zonal war room of the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), which is meant to allot beds for Covid-19.
Over a fortnight after the government announced measures to streamline the bed allotment system in Bengaluru for Covid-19, prompted by BJP MP Tejasvi Surya’s allegations of widespread corruption and mismanagement, new problems have surfaced.
Kumar, who knows of Sarasamma’s case, said he had helped hundreds get beds since the first wave, but for his friend he was told to try Bowring, Victoria and Ghousia government hospitals. “They are insisting they will take in a patient only if a bed has been booked through the BBMP war room. I work in the war room and I know it takes some time before we can find a bed.”
Under the new system, discretionary powers of hospitals to admit walk-in patients have been reduced, while there is an audit of response time by the war rooms, and the number of calls before a bed is booked. Patients have only four hours to get admitted in a hospital after a bed has been allotted, instead of the earlier 10 hours; war room officials have individual login IDs to improve accountability; and a manual bed unblocking feature has been disabled to rule out any manipulation.
Kumar acknowledged that the process was better in principle. However, he pointed out, “Doctors have to approve the request for a bed and it has to be cleared by an IAS official. It takes more time.” The wait can drag on for over 24 hours to find ICU and ICU ventilator beds since these are in short supply, he said.
M Lakshman, a worker with Labournet, an NGO deployed at hospitals and helping patients, said, “It takes at least six to seven hours to get a bed. For one patient on May 19 it took 10 hours.”
Lakshman said the walk-in system worked better in ensuring immediate help for critical patients, giving the example of a 33-year-old labourer who was lucky enough to get an ICU bed at a private hospital, despite being a walk in, with his oxygen saturation at 70.
A nurse employed at a large Covid government hospital said, “Anybody who admits walk-in patients has to face an inquiry. We would earlier treat patients in emergency situations, but we are now doing what the government has instructed.” The nurse also talked of complaints by patients of waiting a long time for beds, and that sometimes war room helplines only respond when the patient is outside a hospital.
The new system that requires a positive test report also keeps out suspected Covid cases, even if they have breathing problems.
The nurse said one of her colleagues had been ill for five days. “But a bed is yet to be blocked for her through the war room. She has comorbidities. If an employee of a hospital cannot get a bed allotted, then the plight of ordinary people can be imagined.”
On Thursday, the BBMP unveiled a new real-time dashboard, with zone-wise as well as admission and discharge data, on bed availability in Bengaluru. Surya welcomed the same, saying on social media, “This will enable an efficient and transparent process where every citizen irrespective of his financial or social status will be treated fairly and equally by the system.”
On Friday evening the BBMP Covid portal showed four ICU beds available out of 587, and five ICU ventilator beds out of a total of 597, across public and private hospitals, kept aside to be allotted by the government. Besides, 310 HDU beds were available out of 4,790; and 4,631 general beds out of 7,243.
Bengaluru reported 9,591 cases on Friday and 129 deaths.
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