Monday musings: No beds in Pune, fear stalks the streets
Summer is here and so are the restrictions. Covid numbers are showing a massive spike every passing day in Pune, and in parts of Maharashtra. The second wave has set in amid anxious worries about how far it will go.
The dashboard prepared by city administration showed on Sunday morning there are no ICU beds available in Pune.
The situation is a chilling reminder of August last year, when many died in the absence of oxygen support or access to ventilators.
The Jumbo Covid unit restarted by state government has also been completely occupied and people are scrambling for beds.
It’s been more than a year since Pune saw Maharashtra’s first case. Prior to the pandemic, PMC hospitals in the city did not even have a single operating ventilator. Did the local and state authorities ramp up health infrastructure in the past one year?
Among the few things the Pune Municipal Corporation did was to convert its Baner facility into a 300-bed hospital, using Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) measures.
The facility currently has 312 beds for critical care, including 270 oxygenated beds, 26 ICU beds and 16 ventilators. The hospital is currently dedicated for Covid-19 patients, but will eventually be opened for other ailments once the pandemic comes to an end.
Besides Baner, the state government created a Jumbo facility, which had to be closed in Decembe,r and resurrected by March whenCovid numbers began to surge.
One of the oldest medical facilities, Sassoon General Hospital, also saw a major upgrade after 11 years.
On the whole though, neither PMC, nor the district administration utilised the past year to permanently create some robust health infrastructure that will last for years to come.
In fact, around 42 per cent of the operational ventilators under new additions in most of the public hospitals in Pune and a few private hospitals were donated by the Pune Platform for Covid Response (PPCR), created by industry body MCCIA.
Through donations from corporates, PPCR donated 263 ventilators and 107 High Flow Nasal Oxygen units to various hospitals in Pune.
All this help is very useful, but not adequate to tackle a pandemic such as this, when the daily caseload of Pune district on Saturday went up to 10,800; a scary figure.
When cases are rising substantially and health infrastructure is falling short, many countries have opted during the past one year to stop the movement of people.
Curbs have its cost, but benefits may overweigh these, provided the government takes a humanitarian approach and offer financial assistance.
During the period of restrictions when people’s movement is affected, rigorous testing and tracing of contacts has shown that the surge can be controlled effectively.
During the last week of February and early days of March, two districts of Maharashtra – Amravati and Yavatmal – startled everyone when the positivity rate reached around 50%.
Families after families tested positive in these two cities as the virus had penetrated most localities. The authorities then started testing all possible close contacts to trace infected people.
By March third week, the positivity rate of Amravati and Yavatmal came down to at 12% and 9%, respectively, and by April, it showed a further dip.
In Pune, the positivity rate during the past week crossed 32 %. On Saturday, it touched 34.70 %. Despite the high rate, sample testing hasn’t increased as much as it should have, neither has contact tracing happening on a mass level. Most housing societies declared as micro-containment zones have been failing to strictly follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. If people are not following norms, the government has little choice, but to go for restrictions.