Beds filling fast, city can’t keep up with ICU, oxygen demand
Health care infrastructure in the Capital is under unprecedented stress, evidenced by the fact that the 250 beds operationalised on Monday morning in the army’s temporary hospital were full by the afternoon; Delhi government’s biggest hospital, Lok Nayak, has no beds left for the first time since the pandemic began; and the net availability of ICU beds stood in double digits on Monday despite the addition of 222 beds since Sunday.
Of the 134 hospitals that have intensive care unit beds for patients with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), all the beds were occupied in 126 of them as on Monday evening.
Only seven hospitals had ICU beds available as of Monday night. Madhukar Rainbow hospital in Malviya Nagar had 24, Sir Ganga Ram 11, ESIC Okhla five, AIIMS and Lady Hardinge four each, Acharya Shree Bhikshu two and Ram Manohar Lohia hospital one, all adding up to 51, according to the government’s Delhi Corona app.
Neeraj Gupta was waiting outside west Delhi’s Kalra hospital since Monday morning. His sister and her husband needed admission in an ICU as their oxygen saturation had dipped to 80% (the normal oxygen saturation is 95% to 100%; anything less than 94% for a sustained period is considered to be serious).
“The hospital does not have any ICU beds. I’ve called many others but we haven’t received any assurance of an available bed anywhere in the city. We are waiting here because this hospital has told us that beds might become available by 8pm. For now, they are in the car and using the one oxygen tank that I managed to get,” said Gupta.
Eight-month pregnant Fareeha Khan was also brought to the emergency department of Holy Family hospital on Monday morning.
“Her oxygen saturation had dipped to 82%; the doctors have given her oxygen but they do not have any beds to admit her. We have been calling several hospitals for admission,” said her father IS Khan.
The doctors said that the situation was unprecedented and added that they didn’t see anything close to it even during the November surge in cases, which was previously the worst wave of infections in the Capital.
“You know what the situation is; the hospital is completely full. We are making place for the sick as patients get discharged. We are keeping some of the others in the observation area,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director, Lok Nayak hospital.
A similar situation existed in the Delhi government-run GTB hospital even though the hospital had 986 beds available on Monday evening, according to the Delhi Corona app.
“There are 11 or 12 oxygen ports in the Covid-19 emergency; there are at least 70 patients here. The doctors in casualty are supposed to stabilise the patient, give them oxygen and medicines till they can be moved to the ward or ICU. However, all ICU beds and those with central oxygen supply are already occupied. This has clogged the emergency department,” said a doctor posted in the hospital emergency on condition of anonymity.
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The doctor said: “The 900 or so beds that are available do not have an oxygen pipeline, but can accommodate patients with oxygen cylinders. The only problem with oxygen cylinders is that they can provide oxygen at a speed of up to 15 litres a minute. They cannot be used to give high-flow oxygen, for which nearly 50 litres of oxygen are needed per minute.”
At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a senior administrator said, “We already have about 900 Covid-19 patients admitted to the hospital; we do not have the capacity for more. We ask patients who come to the emergency to look for beds elsewhere; we cannot refer them because we do not know where to refer them to.”
The administrator added, “Those who can wait, wait. Depending on their condition, they might have to wait anywhere between several hours to a couple of days.”