2/3rds of Covid beds in Delhi hospitals vacant
The number of people in the city hospitalised with Covid-19 has been declining consistently over the past week, with the number of beds occupied dipping below the 5,000-mark on four consecutive days.
This means over two-thirds of beds in Delhi designated for the treatment of Covid-19 patients remain vacant, as on Saturday.
Currently, there are 15,244 Covid-19 beds across government and private hospitals, of which 4,502 were occupied as on Saturday evening. An additional 1,000 beds are available at the field hospital in Dhaula Kuan built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The last time the number of people in the hospitals was as low was on June 10, when Delhi had been recording between 1,000 and 1,500 new cases a day. The daily new case count shot up to 3,947 on June 23, but has significantly lowered, especially over the past week.
The government, however, has no plans to de-escalate the preparations made for Covid-19 treatment.
“We cannot start de-escalating preparations made for Covid-19 right now even though the number of howspitalisations has gone down. In many places across the world — even in Mumbai — the number of cases has gone up after showing a decline. We have to stay alert,” said a Delhi government spokesperson.
However, hospitals have put any further expansions on hold. “Only about a third of the beds in the AIIMS Trauma Centre and Jhajjar campus are currently occupied, and there is no need for more. The burns centre will not be converted to a Covid-19 hospital for the time being,” said Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The hospital has 1,250 beds in its cancer centre at Jhajjar and 260 beds in the trauma centre on ring road earmarked for Covid-19 patients. Currently, just over 400 patients are admitted to both, Dr Sharma said.
The number of admissions started going down at the hospital 10 days ago. The highest number of active cases that the hospital had was just over 600 mid-June.
At the 2,000-bed Lok Nayak hospital, Delhi’s biggest Covid-19 facility, the number of admissions have gone down from about a 100 a day 10 days ago to about 50 to 60 in the last 10 days. “The number of cases has certainly gone down, but the cases we are getting are more serious ones, where the patient is semi-conscious or is already on life-support. This means more and more people are staying in home isolation rather than coming to hospitals. However, whether or not to start other services is a decision that has to be taken by the government,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak hospital.
Experts also agreed that it would be premature to scale down the number of Covid beds. “I visited two private hospitals in the city as a part of the committee observing Covid-19 patient care and found that 50% of the beds were empty. It is encouraging to see that the number of new cases and hospitalisations are going down, but it is too early to shut down these facilities. The government should review the situation again in a few weeks to examine the trend,” said Dr Mahesh Verma, vice-chancellor of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. He chaired a committee set up by the Delhi government in June that estimated infrastructure needs to treat Covid patients.
The committee had said there would be 100,000 cases by June-end, which would consequently necessitate at least 15,000 beds.
Another member of the committee Dr Arun Gupta, president of the Delhi Medical Council, said, “The number of people hospitalised in the city is consistently going down by 200 to 300 every day. This is very encouraging, but the government cannot lower their guard yet. In countries like China, Spain and US the number of cases has risen after a decline.”
Assuming the initial trends of the sero-surveillance data to be true, he said, Delhi is a long way away from herd immunity.
“There were reports that there is a 15% prevalence of the antibodies against Covid-19 in Delhi. This is not enough for herd immunity, which can protect those who are uninfected. Besides, we don’t even know whether the antibodies are enough to prevent a second infection — studies have shown that antibody levels are lower in asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms. Plus, we also don’t know how long the antibodies last in a person. The infection is spreading in the other parts of the country and there is a possibility of resurgence in Delhi,” said Dr Gupta
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