Delhi converts OTs to ICUs, plans to get 500 ventilators as Covid-19 cases rise

Updated on Apr 28, 2020 03:29 PM IST

Delhi has already reached the first of three scenarios that the five-member panel had advised to prepare for—100 cases being reported a day. The number of cases spiked on Sunday, with 293 people testing positive.

Currently, Delhi has 1,106 ventilators—306 in government hospitals and 800 in private ones—according to a report by the five-member committee advising chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Covid-19.(AP file photo. Representative image)
Currently, Delhi has 1,106 ventilators—306 in government hospitals and 800 in private ones—according to a report by the five-member committee advising chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Covid-19.(AP file photo. Representative image)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

To increase the capacity to treat critical Covid-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU), the Delhi government is looking to buy around 500 ventilators for its hospitals.

Currently, the city has 1,106 ventilators—306 in government hospitals and 800 in private ones—according to a report by the five-member committee advising chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Covid-19.

“We are looking at different ventilator manufacturers—including Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)—to procure around 500 ventilators,” a senior official from Delhi’s health department said. Currently, the specifications and the make of the ventilators offered by various manufacturers are being examined by Lok Nayak Hospital before an order is placed. It is the biggest Covid-19 hospital in the city, managing 165 patients with severe symptoms.

A ventilator augments the breathing function of a person whose lungs are compromised, a condition common to Covid-19 patients as the disease moves into a serious stage.

Delhi has already reached the first of three scenarios that the five-member panel had advised to prepare for—100 cases being reported a day. The number of cases spiked on Sunday, with 293 people testing positive.

Now, in preparation for the second scenario—500 cases being reported in a day—the two dedicated Covid-19 hospitals in Delhi are looking at converting their operation theatres into intensive care units (ICUs) and adding oxygen support to all the beds.

This is one of the measures suggested by the five-member panel.

“We have to operationalise 125 intensive care unit beds. And—as the committee rightly recommended—the operation theatres that already have gas pipelines in place are the easiest to convert into ICUs. Each of our OTs will have two beds. The post-op area of the surgical block will also be used,” a doctor from Lok Nayak Hospital said on condition of anonymity.

The hospital has 18 operation theatres, some of which are likely to be reserved for surgeries on Covid-19 patients.

The hospital currently has 64 ICU beds.

The other 1,500 beds in the hospital will all have the facility to provide oxygen support to patients. “The casualty wards, new medical block, some parts of the gynaecology block and paediatric block, as well as the OT block already have gas pipelines, so oxygen therapy will not be a problem. For areas such as the orthopaedic block that do not have a gas pipeline, oxygen cylinders will be used,” the doctor said.

Of the 1,987 active cases—those who still have the infection—42 are admitted to the ICUs of the nine Covid-19 hospitals and 11 are on ventilator support.

“According to the data, there is just a handful of people on ventilators right now. The proportion of people who need ventilation is very little and as the private sector is involved, Delhi currently has enough facilities to handle all its cases. However, just to be prepared, the government is looking at purchasing more ventilators,” another senior official involved in Covid-19 preparations said.

Delhi is preparing for the worst-case scenario of having to deal with 30,000 active cases at one time.

“Assuming that for every 1,000 cases, 50 need ventilators—and that is a very high estimate—we still have enough ventilators in the city as of now. The infection is here, nobody can stop its spread, but we have to reduce the number of deaths from the infection,” said Dr SK Sarin, chair of the five-member panel and the director of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, which is the first in the city to start plasma therapy trials for Covid-19 patients.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anonna Dutt is a health reporter at Hindustan Times. She reports on Delhi government’s health policies, hospitals in Delhi, and health-related feature stories.

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