BMC, health workers gear up to tackle Covid third wave in Mumbai
As Covid-19 infections are once again beginning to gradually rise in Mumbai, health experts have warned of another increase after Ganesh Chaturthi festival. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has predicted around 1.25 lakh individuals in Mumbai could contract Covid-19 in the anticipated third wave, and officials are working in full swing to take preparatory measures. While emotionally exhausted healthcare workers (HCWs) are preparing themselves to serve needy patients again, they have also raised their demand to fill vacant posts that will disperse the workload.
The second wave that hit the city earlier this year was worse than the first wave. In April, when the pandemic curve was at its peak, the daily Covid-19 count crossed 10,000 on three days. Although unlike the first wave, the number of beds was almost adequate, the city faced acute shortage of oxygen as the cumulative number of active patients stood at 87,698 on April 17 and the demand for oxygen surged to 270 metric tonnes per day.
Now, expecting all possible scenarios, BMC has decided to increase their oxygen production from 50 metric tonnes to 250 metric tonnes before another surge. The civic body has, therefore, plans to set up 16 oxygen generation plants in hospitals by investing over ₹90 crore, to ensure that the city becomes partially self-reliant for its oxygen needs.
Nine oxygen plants have already been put in place at nine civic-run hospitals including the four major hospitals — King Edward Memorial (KEM), Parel; BYL Nair at Mumbai Central; Dr RN Cooper Hospital in Juhu; and Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital also known as Sion Hospital.
Talking about the preparatory plans, Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner, BMC, said around 1.25 lakh Covid-19 infection have been predicted in the third wave. He, however, did not mention the time span. “Around 20% of these patients will require hospitalisation. The cumulative bed strength will be increased to 30,000 for severely infected patients. Along with this, we plan to keep 70,000 beds in Covid Care Centres (CCCs) for moderately and mildly infected patients and 60% beds will have oxygen support,” he said.
Though medical experts are unable to predict anything about the epidemiological pattern of the virus in the third wave, they will take lessons from the United States (US) where the pandemic has worsened in the third wave. The US has been witnessing a surge in its daily figures since July, when the Delta variant of the Sars-CoV-2 — the virus that causes Covid-19 — hit the country. As of August 18, the seven-day average of daily new cases was 13.2% higher than the previous week and 1,016.8% higher than the lowest average in June 2021, as per the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We are hopeful that the impact of the third wave will be lesser compared to the earlier waves due to mass vaccination. But it would be tough to predict anything in this situation. So, we have to be fully prepared,” said Dr Rahul Pandit, member of the state Covid-19 task force.
Meanwhile, emotionally and physically exhausted HCWs, who have been working round the clock since the outbreak in March 2020, are getting mentally prepared to face another surge.
“The nurses have been the pillar of hospitals in taking care of the patients. We know that once another wave hits us, we will again have to work round the clock. It becomes overwhelming for us to handle so many patients. But we are getting mentally ready as the city is witnessing a gradual rise in cases,” said Rucha Salgoankar, senior nurse at BYL Nair Hospital.
Many nurses want to take a break from work and go on a vacation to spend some quality time with their families. But due to the work pressure related to monsoon-related patients, they are unable to get one. Many nurses are also stationed in vaccination centres as vaccinators.
“I had to stay away from my family for five months when the pandemic broke. I haven’t taken a day off since last year. Even before we could get a breathing space after the second wave, monsoon-related diseases like dengue, malaria, chikungunya among others surged,” said a nurse from Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital.
Resident doctors are also ready to serve again, but they have raised the need to fill vacant posts in government and civic-run hospitals to lessen the burden on them which also hampers their studies. They have already lost 18 months of their postgraduate course, and if another wave strikes, their specialisation studies will again hit a roadblock.
“MBBS students want to do PG as they want to gain knowledge in a specific field of medicine. We want to become competent specialist doctors. But in the past 18 months, we have been working like MBBS doctors in Covid-19 wards. We haven’t learnt anything in our subjects,” said Dr Dyaneshwar Dobale, president of central MARD. “If another wave hits the city, we will again work with full dedication to treat patients. But authorities should focus on filling vacant posts in peripheral hospitals for distribution of workload,” he said.
BMC claimed they are already in the process to fill vacant posts and added that if required, they will hire private doctors like they did during the first and second waves.