‘80% of ICU beds occupied in Mumbai, need more to fight 2nd wave’

Updated on Apr 02, 2021 12:46 AM IST

With the number of active Covid-19 patients crossing 51,000, almost 80% of the intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied by severely infected patients

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ByRupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai

With the number of active Covid-19 patients crossing 51,000, almost 80% of the intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied by severely infected patients. Although the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to increase the bed strength to 21,000 from the current 13,000, doctors claim the civic body should focus more on ICU beds.

Currently, there are a total of 1,627 ICU beds in hospitals, of which only 324 beds are vacant. It includes 155 vacant beds in civic-run hospitals, while the remaining 169 unoccupied beds are in private hospitals. Similarly, of the 1,000 ventilator beds, only 170 beds are vacant with 81 beds in private and 89 beds in BMC-run hospitals.

Mumbai is recording between 5,000-6,000 cases daily, of which 10-15% need hospitalisation. With around 700 patients needing hospitalisation for a period of 14 days, soon, the remaining vacant beds are likely to get filled.

Naresh Mehra, 71, a resident of Andheri, was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday, along with his 45-year-old son. His oxygen saturation dropped below 90% and considering he has diabetes, his family physician suggested he be admitted to the ICU. But even after approaching two-three hospitals, they couldn’t find a bed. “We enquired at private hospitals, including Holy Spirit and Apex Hospital in Andheri. Then we scouted for beds in Thunga Hospital in Malad, but didn’t get an ICU bed. Later, through BMC, we admitted him at Dahisar jumbo centre,” said Sukanya Mehra, daughter-in-law of the patient.

“Many hospitals are complaining of shortage of ICU beds. So, on priority, the civic body should increase the ICU beds to provide timely treatment to patients who have been severely infected,” said Dr Amit Thadani, a general surgeon in Chembur who is currently in-charge of Covid care at a private hospital.

Major private hospitals like Lilavati, Nanavati, Saifee, Bombay hospitals, among others, have run out of ICU beds who keep patients on waiting lists. “The flow of patients has increased. As soon as a patient gets discharged from the ICU, we admit another one. So, we don’t have any vacant bed at the moment,” said Dr V Ravishankar, chief operating officer, Lilavati Hospital.

Due to the growing fear, many mildly symptomatic patients who can be treated at home are also requesting for beds. To address the issue, the BMC has issued a circular instructing private hospitals to admit patients only through the respective civic war rooms.

“There is a growing fear among people due to the second wave and misinformation about the mutation of the virus. Mildly symptomatic patients also want to get admitted. Some even provide incorrect information about symptoms to get a bed,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, in-charge of covid beds in private hospitals.

City hospitals are also struggling with manpower crunch. Compared to last year, the workload is more this year due to the second wave and rising footfall of non-Covid patients.

“Last year, when the pandemic started, due to the lockdown, the footfall of non-Covid patients fell by almost 90%. But now, with the starting of public transport, we are getting a large number of non-Covid patients. So, the workload has doubled, which is too much to handle,” said a senior doctor from BYL Nair Hospital.

With the flattening of the pandemic curve post October 2020, many hospitals have reduced their Covid bed strength to make space for non-Covid patients. Now, they are struggling to make arrangements for it. “When the pandemic started, we had more than 150 Covid beds. But with the drop in daily cases, we reduced the bed strength to 15. Now again, we are increasing Covid beds in the hospitals. At present, we have 39 beds, including 11 ICU beds. Soon, we would add another 40 beds,” said Dr Bhansali.

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