Full hospitals, high caseload: Bihar battles the odds in second wave

Bihar defected 4,157 positive cases on Tuesday, its highest in a day. The state has 20,148 active cases including 7,557 in Patna.

As the Bihar Health Minister carried out an inspection at the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital on Tuesday, a 60-year-old man lay dead on a stretcher outside. The deceased Lakhisarai resident had first been taken to AIIMS, Patna on Monday night. He was not admitted there because there was no bed available. The patient was then taken to a private hospital. This hospital then referred him to the NMCH in a critical condition.

After the incident, Health Minister Mangal Pandey promised the state is trying to augment facilities.

But despite the minister’s assurances, the state’s healthcare system faces serious challenges with the detection of over 21,000 Covid cases in the last fortnight. Over 7,500 people tested positive in Patna alone. Gaya, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur are other worst-affected districts in the second surge.

Covid beds at about 20 government and private hospitals are already full. AIIMS, Patna Director PK Singh said: “We have been increasing beds but it is not enough. It is very difficult to accomodate referred cases”.

PMCH and NMCH authorities have been citing similar reasons.

In the private sector, beds at Paras HMRI are full. Udyan Hospital head Dr Ajay Alok said: “In a matter of last 10 days, there has been a surge of patients. The next month is going to be very challenging.”

Altogether, Bihar has about 1,700 ICU beds. Of them, about 1,000 are in private sector hospitals. The state has over 300 ventilators in government and about 500 in private hospitals.

Health Minister Pandey said: “We are increasing 30 beds each in AIIMS, PMCH and NMCH.” The state has also requested the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), Patna to open 50 Covid beds. Besides, the Centre has also hinted that AIIMS, Patna, could be declared a dedicated Covid hospital soon.

The question is whether this would be enough to prevent more incidents like the death of the Lakhisarai man. His tearful son had Tuesday accused the NMCH administration of not admitting his father and making them wait outside the hospital in the sun. NMCH Hospital Manager Pranay Kumar said: “The patient was brought dead to the hospital. It is very easy for private hospitals to refer very critical patients to us and shift the blame on us”.

But the major cause of concern is district hospitals are still not equipped to deal with critical patients. Rakesh Kumar Singh, a Supreme Court advocate, said: “I had admitted my sister at Bhagalpur’s government hospital. We were not at all satisfied with the treatment. Senior doctors would hardly visit patients. Finally, a junior doctor suggested me take my sister to other hospital. We anyhow got her admitted to AIIMS, Patna and hoping she recovers”. He added that those without contacts had been facing a lot of difficulties.

Passengers coming to Bihar from Maharashtra through trains have been posing another challenge. At Pataliputra Railway Station where most trains from Maharashtra terminate, over 100 passengers have tested positive. These passengers are kept at isolation centres under medical care. Gopalganj, bordering UP, has been also getting 500-700 people coming to Bihar from other states. Govind Kumar, a Gopalganj resident, said: “A medical camp is there at the border. Those with any symptoms are getting tested and rest are allowed to go”.

Bihar defected 4,157 positive cases on Tuesday, its highest in a day. The state has 20,148 active cases including 7,557 in Patna.

It has been testing about one lakh samples daily. The state has a 92.5 per cent recovery rate with 1,630 deaths, including 50 in the last 13 days.

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