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Black marketing of Bengaluru hospital beds continues

Bengaluru The Bengaluru police on Thursday said they have arrested two persons for allegedly fleecing Covid-19 patients in need of intensive care unit (ICU) hospital beds
By Sharan Poovanna
PUBLISHED ON MAY 07, 2021 12:32 AM IST

Bengaluru The Bengaluru police on Thursday said they have arrested two persons for allegedly fleecing Covid-19 patients in need of intensive care unit (ICU) hospital beds.

In a series of tweets, Bengaluru City Police commissioner Kamal Pant referred to a Covid-19 patient, whose family was forced to pay 120,000 for a hospital bed in the city.

“A patient Laxmidevamma who was diagnosed with #COVID19 was brought to a private hospital. Due to the non-availability of ICU beds in the hospital, 2 persons, Venkata Subbarao & Manjunath, connected to the hospital and in connivance with Punith -- working as Arogya Mitra in another hospital -- demanded & extorted 120,000 from Lakshmisha, the son of the patient, for allotting a bed in a reputed hospital. 50K was paid via GPay & 70K was paid in cash,” Pant said in two-part tweets on Thursday.

He added that the patient died a few hours after being allotted a bed, after which his son Lakshmisha filed a complaint with the police.

The two accused were arrested on Thursday, said police, adding that further investigation was on.

The incident comes two days after a section of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators made serious allegations against the administration of Bengaluru civic body.

Lok Sabha member Tejaswi Surya along with two legislators from Bengaluru had alleged that there were at least 4,065 instances in which hospital beds were booked in the name of asymptomatic persons and later allotments were changed by people employed at the Covid war room with the help of officials and outside agents.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) searches were conducted at 8 zonal war rooms. Lot of data has been collected. Eight teams led by one PI each are scrutinising all data. Further action will be taken based on information taken out from this data. The hospitals in which the arrested accused had blocked beds are being investigated. Teams verifying in these hospitals. Police custody will be taken for further interrogation,” Sandeep Patil, the joint commissioner of police, Crime, said.

The scam was, however, given a communal colour by Surya and the two legislators -- Satish Reddy and Ravi Subramanya -- as they singled out names of Muslims working in the war room.

Meanwhile, Reddy’s name has also cropped up in the scandal, with allegations that his supporters were also part of the racket.

There have been rising complaints against government officials for helping touts to profiteer from the sale of antiviral drugs and injections like remdesivir, taking bribes for hospital beds and even jumping the long-winding queues outside crematoriums.

All these come at a time when Karnataka and its capital Bengaluru in particular have seen an exponential rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the second wave of the pandemic. On Thursday, the state reported 49,058 new infections , taking the active caseload to 517,075. Bengaluru accounted for 23,706 new infections, taking its total active case count to 332,732. As many as 328 people succumbed to the viral disease in Karnataka on Thursday, taking the toll in the state to 17,212. Bengaluru reported 139 deaths on Thursday, taking its toll due to Covid-19 to 7,145, according to the daily bulletin of the health department.

According to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Central Hospital Bed Management System website, there are over 1,738 beds vacant out of the total 11,074 in government and private hospitals and medical colleges. However, several incidents of critical patients denied admission at hospitals have been reported in the past two weeks.

On Thursday, a family drove the ambulance straight to the official residence of CM Yediyurappa, crying for help. In a video that was circulated widely on social media, a man and his sister desperately cry for help to find a bed for her husband who is critically ill and in the ambulance. “We are willing to pay and do not want any money from the government. All we want is a hospital bed,” the man is heard saying. “We have gone to almost 20 hospitals but everywhere they tell us that there are no beds. But the government comes on TV and says that there are enough beds. Please help us get justice,” he pleads with the police and media personnel present there. The woman said that she has two children and wants to save her husband’s life.

Gaurav Gupta, the chief commissioner of the BBMP, on Thursday said the city administration was looking to convert around 50% of the beds in Covid care centres meant for asymptomatic patients, into oxygenated beds. He added that there are around 15,000 hotel rooms in the city and at least 945 of them will be converted as ‘step-down’ hospitals to ease the pressure on the existing and inadequate healthcare infrastructure in Bengaluru.

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