April 22, 2021 3:03:46 am
As Panchkula health system collapses under the weight of increasing positive patients, the only four hospitals of the city equipped to deal with critical cases remain full to the brink with long waiting periods for the ICUs. No Covid ICU bed was available for admission to patients in Panchkula as of 5 pm on Wednesday.
The Indian Express visited all four Covid critical care hospitals — Paras Hospital, Alchemist Hospital, Ojas Hospital and Civil Hospital — and not even a single critical care Covid bed was found available for admission. Only 74 beds with ventilators/bipap are currently demarcated for Covid patients at four hospitals despite inflow of patients to the city from Kalka constituency as well as neighbouring districts of Ambala and Yamunanagar. These beds comprise 13 at civil hospital, 28 at Paras, 15 at Alchemist and 18 at Ojas.
However, when contacted, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jasjeet Kaur, said: “We still have about 30 beds with oxygen. Efforts are on to add more critical care beds. Covid hospitals have been advised to take down stable patients early and use beds judiciously. Another private hospital has been inspected for requisition.”
A senior doctor currently employed at Alchemist, on condition of anonymity, said, “There is a complete collapse of healthcare system in Panchkula just as everywhere else. People are coming in begging for beds. They have been forced to use top-most sources for beds to be freed up. The situation is only going to get dire. We have zero Covid ICU beds available at Ojas- Alchemist or Alchemist-21.”
He added: “The situation might not seem very dire as of yet since patients are finding resources in Chandigarh now, but it will soon become unmanageable if concrete action is not taken very soon. Critical care beds need to be increased and drastically so.”
Even the 300-bedded district hospital of the city, which had on the onset of pandemic only converted Block C into Covid ward, has now also added Block B as well as areas of the emergency department. Of the total 300 beds, while 50 continue to be used for ailments sans Covid, more than 250 have been demarcated for Covid.
Another healthcare worker employed with Paras Hospital said, “With the increasing inflow of patients, we have had to increase the number of Covid ICU beds. There are almost 70 ICU Covid beds at Paras now. All full, not a single one available. It depends on the luck of a person as to how much it will take for a bed to be freed. Those in ICUs either pass away or improve and are taken to general wards. There is no demand of any bed other than that of Covid ICU.”
While officials of the district continue claiming “management above numbers”, insisting the critical cases are being managed without lapse, doctors working in the Covid ward have a different story to tell.
“There is no lack of oxygen at this time in Panchkula but we do have a severe lack of ICUs, especially ventilator supported. We have had to refer people to Chandigarh due to the same. The progression of deaths may have been slow till March, we are now reporting increasing number of deaths each day. The administration might blame it on not getting vaccinated or reporting cases late but it is actually a failure of the administration in ramping up health facilities. They had one whole year. But we were provided no budgets by the government,” said a senior doctor of the Panchkula health department.
The state government had last week deputed 12 IAS officers in various districts to review and monitor preparedness to tackle the Covid-19 surge with immediate effect.
Additional Chief Secretary Alok Nigam, who has been given additional charge of Panchkula, said, “In a meeting conducted Monday with Panchkula administration, we have decided to increase the number of critical care Covid beds in the district. We will furthermore establish Covid quarantine centres for both the general population as well as healthcare workers. Orders are to be passed by DC soon in this regard.”
Panchkula in the surge witnessed last year had at least 81 ICU beds and additional 1,200 beds for patients requiring moderate and asymptomatic care.
The number of active cases has gone up from 953 at the beginning of April to 2,375 on Tuesday. Critical cases are also on the rise, as 18 patients have succumbed to the virus in just 19 days this month, as compared to 12 in the first three months. Almost 6,000 positive cases have already tested positive in Panchkula in the first 20 days of April.
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