The second wave has exposed an acute shortage of critical care, oxygen and beds.
As COVID-19 positive cases keep rising steeply across the country, in many States, patients and their relatives are put through the wringer literally, as they hunt for oxygen, beds, ventilators and ICUs. Hospitals who have mild and moderate COVID-19 patients but no ventilators or ICU services, are also in a fix if the health condition of the patient deteriorates.
Delhi, the national capital region and most parts of northern India continued to reel under the shortage of beds, oxygen and essential drugs necessary to deal with the situation, on Tuesday. At Apollo Hospital in Delhi, angry relatives attacked hospital staff, after a patient died, while waiting for an ICU bed. People could be seen attacking hospital security guards with sticks.
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At least 45 people are known to have died in two city hospitals on account of oxygen-supply linked issues.
In Bihar, a woman was seen on camera outside a private hospital in Patna pleading with a media person to arrange an oxygen cylinder. The hospital had earlier discharged her husband due to lack of oxygen supply in the hospital but when she didn’t get a bed in the other COVID-19 designated private hospitals of the city, she was forced to return to the same hospital. The district administration has designated 90 registered private hospitals in Patna for treatment of COVID-19 patients but most of them were forced to turn away patients by Tuesday, citing lack of oxygen or beds.
Futile wait in U.P.
In Uttar Pradesh, which recorded 265 new deaths and 32,993 new cases according to the State Health Department, the desperate hunt for beds and oxygen continued. In Agra, Priya Singh could not find a bed for her father, 57, whose oxygen level was falling. “We desperately need a hospital. He is unable to even move. We are returning home now as his condition is getting worse standing on the road,” Ms Singh said.
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In Kanpur, the second worst-affected district, Amit Tiwari has been waiting more than a day to get his mother admitted in a private hospital with ventilator facilities due to a delayed COVID-19 test result. In Gorakhpur, Sanjeev Singh’s family was also desperately seeking help to admit him to an ICU bed since Sunday. As an urgent measure, Sanjeev Singh was admitted to a government hospital but his oxygen levels continued to drop as it was not equipped with the necessary facilities.
Situation was similar in Gujarat. Faced with acute shortage of oxygen, hospitals in Surat, including government hospitals, have threatened to stop admitting new patients if the supply is not restored. The two main government hospitals in the city refused to admit new patients.
On Monday, representatives of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Surat, urged Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to immediately increase the supply to save 4,000 patients in various hospitals. More than 50 patients have reportedly died in Navsari, Surat, Banaskantha and Rajkot due to shortage in oxygen in last 10 days.
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Overwhelmed in Pune
Pune, in neighbouring Maharashtra, has nearly one lakh active cases and has reported more than 12,500 deaths while witnessing an average daily spike of more than 10,000 fresh cases for over three weeks now. The district’s overburdened health infrastructure is cracking under the strain of the ‘second wave’, with all major hospitals overwhelmed with frantic calls for critical care beds. Almost all of the 1,400-odd ICU with ventilator beds were occupied till Monday.
Almost every affected family has a horror story to tell.
“However, we did not receive their test reports until April 21. Furthermore, we are under constant pressure from the hospital, where my mother-in-law has been admitted, to secure a ventilator bed for her somewhere else so as to make room for other, less critical patients who are in the long waiting line,” he said.
With the daily caseload having crossed 30,000 per day in Karnataka, the desperate search for drugs, beds and oxygen remains unabated, while the government has imposed a lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.
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Finding an ICU and ventilator beds in Hyderabad has turned into anguish for family members. While the State Health department claimed that the website health.telangana.gov.in, displays real time status of beds availability, patients strongly contested that. According to the website, out of 9,428 ICU or ventilators beds in the hospitals, 3,526 were vacant on Tuesday evening. However, patients and relatives claim that the real situation is far removed from this, and took to Twitter to post bed/ventilator requirements.
In Chennai, a 64-year-old woman who tested positive for COVID-19 infection is being treated in a government hospital for nearly 10 days. While they will continue to keep her, they have told her son that she needs high pressure oxygen flow that is available only in an intensive care unit, which they are currently unable to offer.
A 26-year-old man is looking for an ICU bed for his 58-year-old father who is already on C-PAP in a private hospital. The patient, who tested positive on April 17, requires an ICU bed with ventilator support as he has “serious breathlessness for four days now”.
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Jaheer Hussain of TOSH Hospital, explained: “We are a mid-range orthopaedic hospital converted to a COVID centre, and can admit patients with mild to moderate complications, with SPO2 up to 85. If their oxygen saturation falls below this range we have to refer them to bigger hospitals with critical care support facilities,” he said.
In Odisha, again, people say the situation is worse than government claims of available beds. All major private hospitals in the capital Bhubaneswar are turning patients away citing unavailability of beds. Without recommendations and pressure from people in powerful positions, it is difficult to find a bed in ICUs in private hospitals.
In Jammu and Kashmir, there is rare good news, as leading government-run hospitals in Srinagar and Jammu have a bed occupancy rate between 70 to 90 %, officials said. According to data from districts, bed occupancy is still around 50 %.
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Kerala, in preparation for the second wave, had doubled the number of ventilators (3,776 both public and private) and ICU beds (9,735 both public and private) in the State; and increased the oxygen production. Hospital bed and ICU bed capacity was enhanced over two times in many government medical colleges, while all private medical colleges have been asked to give up 75% of the beds for COVID patients.
“But every surge capacity has a limit. If the case graph continues to rise the way it has been this past week, our system too may not hold up ,” says Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director, Kerala State Security Mission.
(With inputs from reporters in New Delhi, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneshwar, Hyderabad Bangalore, Tiruvananthapuram. Srinagar)
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