Over 77% non-Covid-19 ICUs in Delhi now occupied, data shows
The Delhi government has started updating information on the availability of non-Covid ICU beds in its ‘Delhi Corona’ app after the Delhi high court asked the state for information of ICU beds available for the treatment of non-Covid-19 patients.Updated: Oct 20, 2020, 01:21 IST
The number of patients visiting hospitals with ailments other than the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has reached the same levels as before the lockdown enforced on March 25.
As a result, almost 75% of the beds in non-Covid-19 intensive care units (ICUs) are occupied, compared to 54% of Covid-19 ICU beds.
The Delhi government has started updating information on the availability of non-Covid ICU beds in its ‘Delhi Corona’ appafter the Delhi high court asked the state for information of ICU beds available for the treatment of non-Covid-19 patients. The court issued the order when Delhi government’s decision to reserve 80% of the ICU beds in 33 big private hospitals to ensure availability of Covid-19 beds was challenged.
At Safdarjung Hospital, the wards that used to be empty are filling up rapidly. “Most of the ICU beds are needed for patients coming in to our emergency department with ailments like meningitis, pneumonitis, stroke and heart attack. Of course, the number of cases might not have gone down but people were not travelling to get treated at our hospital in June and July,” said Dr BK Tripathi, head of the department of medicine at the hospital. “There were wards that remained empty, but now the number of patients has gone up to the pre-lockdown levels. Plus, we are also getting more patients who would have gone to hospitals like Lok Nayak that have completely suspended services other than Covid-19.”
At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) across the road, almost all the patients in the ICUs come in through the hospital’s emergency department, with routine surgeries having been put on hold.
“Our non-Covid ICU has again started running at about 90 to 95% capacity; almost the same as what it used to be before the lockdown. With the fear of Covid-19 reducing in the minds of people, travel resuming, and border closures having been lifted we are getting more and more patients every day,” said Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent at AIIMS.
The emergency at the hospital is running in full swing. Apart from that, semi-emergency surgeries like those needed for cancer are also being routinely performed.
In fact, it is the cancer patients who are taking up most of the non-Covid ICU beds in the city hospitals. At Indraprastha Apollo hospital, most of the patients admitted are from the departments of cancer, cardiology, neurology, and orthopaedics.
“In comparison to June and July, the number of hospital admission have doubled. And, most of the patients are coming in with complications after avoiding going to hospitals for long periods. For example, I had a patient with both shoulders dislocated, but only one had been aligned and treated. People are coming in with cardiac complications as well. This has driven the increase in ICU occupancy,” said Dr Yash Gulati, senior consultant from the department of orthopaedics at the hospital.
“Just because there are Covid-19 cases doesn’t mean that the burden of other diseases has reduced. Yes, people are delaying some of the planned procedure, but we still need as many ICU beds. If more ICU beds are needed for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, we need to create more beds rather than diverting from the existing ones,” he said.
An expected increase in the pollution levels will further drive demand for ICU beds. “Every winter when the pollution levels go up, we see an increase in the number of patients coming in with heart attacks and aggravation of respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and they need ICU care, especially the elderly,” said Dr Gulati.
At Max hospitals, orthopaedic admissions saw the highest increase in September of 78% over July. The biggest share of non-Covid ICU beds are occupied by cancer and heart patients.
“If you look at the number of admissions for September, it is almost the same as previous year. And, most of the ICU beds are being utilised by cancer and heart patients, both of which specialities tend to perform complex surgeries in older patients or those who are weak after chemotherapy and need intensive care. Our department does about 150 surgeries a month, of which 45 to 50 patients (33%) need ICU care,” said Dr Harit Chaturvedi, chairman, Max Institute of Cancer Care.
With fewer ICU beds available, many surgeries have to be deferred. In case of “quaternary surgeries like cancer, heart, neurology etc, the doctors have to be assured that there is an ICU bed available before they can take up the surgeries. If more beds are diverted for Covid-19 treatment, it will hamper the treatment of patients with other diseases and lead to a lot of deaths,” he said.