At a time when Bengaluru faces a bed crunch due to a spike in Covid-19 cases, the software development team of Karnataka Covid-19 War Room has been entrusted with developing an app that helps patients find a hospital bed as easily as they book a cab.
“We want to create an app that will work like Ola and Uber apps for access to hospital beds. Only those who test positive for Covid-19 will be able to book a bed,” said head of the War Room Munish Moudgil, an IAS officer.
The app will have backend verifications on an ICMR database of persons who test positive for Covid-19 each day and bed allocations will happen only after these checks, Moudgil said.
A prototype of the app is under development and officials on Friday held discussions with IAS officer Tushar Girinath, who has been put in charge of streamlining bed availability in Bengaluru, to understand requirements for the app.
“At present, data on hospital bed availability is on a spreadsheet. An app is proposed, but it could take a few days. The spreadsheet data will be put in public domain soon,” Girinath said.
According to epidemiologist and ICMR Covid-19 research group member Dr Giridhar R Babu, technology must be used to address the problem of finding beds for Covid-19 patients.
“Realtime allocation of beds and ICUs using technology can help save lives. Self-assessment, finding hospitals for testing/hospitalisation and support should be integrated on the app or telephone,” he stated.
The software development team has so far developed six apps for different functions, including contact tracing, quarantine watch, tracking arrivals and critical patients.
Bengaluru currently has 2,692 active Covid-19 cases. While only 1,514 beds are available in the government health set-up, private hospitals have not opened up beds for non-insurance patients yet, say city health officials. As per official data, only 418 patients have been admitted to private hospitals since June 1, despite availability of 1,500 beds on paper. The city reported the highest single-day spike of 783 cases on Sunday. There have been 88 deaths in Bengaluru so far, with 78 recorded since June 1.
“The government healthcare system is getting overwhelmed. Although private hospitals have allotted ICU beds on paper for Covid-19 care, they are not allotting them to patients referred by the state,” a health official said.
On June 23, the Karnataka government issued an order under the National Disaster Management Act for taking over 50 per cent of beds at all private hospitals. On Saturday, the state government issued a warning to private hospitals not releasing beds for Covid-19 patients. “It has come to the notice of the government that certain private medical establishments are denying/refusing/avoiding patients with Covid 19 and Covid 19 like symptoms contrary to section 11 of the Karnataka Private Medical Establishment Act 2017 which lays down that every private medical establishment shall actively participate in the implementation of all national and state health programmes…,” states the warning signed by Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar.
“Non compliance to the order will attract punishment under relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act 2005, the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act, 2017 and the Indian Penal Code,” says the note.
The Karnataka government has prescribed a cost structure ranging from Rs 5,200 for a general bed to Rs 10,000 per day for an ICU with a ventilator for patients referred to private hospitals by the state.
For Covid-19 patients who report directly to private hospitals, there is no ceiling on charges if the patient has an insurance cover. Health officials say hospitals favour patients admitted with insurance.
The state government has introduced a three-tier system to treat Covid-19, with the asymptomatic being sent to Covid Care Centres at places like the Haj Bhavan and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ashram, the moderately-ill being admitted to Dedicated Covid Health Centres and those seriously ill at Dedicated Covid Hospitals. The system is part of a strategy to ease pressure on dedicated Covid hospitals.
At the three Dedicated Covid Hospitals in Bengaluru – Victoria Hospital, Bowring Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) – the occupancy on Friday was 308/550 at Victoria; 127/165 at Bowring and 100/104 at RGICD.
In the Dedicated Covid Health Centres in Bengaluru in the government sector, the occupancy on Friday was 113/113 at the Jayanagar General Hospital; 107/107 at the K C General Hospital; 90/150 at the C V Raman General Hospital; 3/40 at the Epidemic Diseases Hospital; 18/21 at the ESI Peenya and 30/60 at the ESI Rajajinagar. According to official data, there are 1619 beds in the private sector as well in the second level, but only 418 patients have been admitted since June 1.
At Covid Care centres where asymptomatic patients are being moved, about 331 beds are occupied out of the 700 available at Haj Bhavan and the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ashram.
The hospital admission of patients who test positive for Covid-19 at present involves health officials downloading information of positive persons from the ICMR portal where the data is fed by ICMR recognised labs, and a health team visiting the patient’s home to assess which of the three categories of healthcare facility the patient needs to be admitted to.
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