Almost all ICU beds occupied in Bengaluru’s govt hospitals, 60% in pvt hospitals
Nearly 100% of the around 400 intensive care units (ICU) beds and the ones with ventilators in government hospitals in Bengaluru are occupied, according to Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) data, leaving little room for the growing number of Covid-19 patients who are in need of critical care.
The occupancy for the same category of beds in government medical colleges stands at nearly 90%, data shows.
The occupancy in private hospitals and private medical colleges is in the range of 60% with beds rapidly filling up, which could force the state government into announcing a lockdown as availability--or non-availability--of beds is one of the two main parameters considered for announcing strict restrictions, experts said. The other being high mortality rate, experts added.
Officials from the state health department and BBMP are trying to get more beds from private medical institutions to increase the count to around 11,000-14,000 across Karnataka, which would make it on par with the preparations during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic around September last year.
“We have around 3,750 beds in both government and private medical institutions and another 600 in Covid care centres (CCC). We are trying to get more beds from private hospitals and medical institutions and right now there is availability of around 30%,” said a senior BBMP official, requesting not to be named.
Data shows that there are 3,819 beds in total across general and ICU categories in Bengaluru, of which 2,750 are occupied. There are 493 beds across government and private medical institutions, of which 461 are occupied, by Wednesday afternoon.
More importantly, the availability of beds in private hospitals and colleges would entail a high cost of treatment, which many Covid-19 patients will find hard to afford despite capping of treatment tariffs by the BS Yediyurappa-led state government.
Karnataka chief secretary P Ravi Kumar, in an order on April 7, said that treatment for persons referred by the government or BBMP to private hospitals will be capped between ₹5,200 and ₹10,000 per day. The cost dramatically jumps up for walk-in patients in private medical institutions as the tariffs per day ranges between ₹10,000 and ₹ 25,000 or higher depending on whether the patient requires general ward beds, ICU or ICU with ventilators.
Officials said there were many people who would take up beds even though they may not require hospitalisation, fearing the spread or complications that come with contracting Covid-19, leading to an acute shortage.
Bengaluru on Wednesday reported 8,155 new infections, taking the active caseload to 63,167. The city also reported 23 new deaths on Wednesday, taking the toll to 4,933.
The surge in the city increased the tally of Karnataka, which reported 11,625 new cases on Wednesday, to 85,480. A total of 38 patients died of Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking the state toll to 13,046.
The single-day spike is the highest in the state and Bengaluru since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.
The requirement of beds, even for asymptomatic persons, gains significance in respect of creating micro-containment zones in Bengaluru as suggested by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The strategy is to minimise the area taken up by a cluster of Covid-19 patients, leaving other parts of the city to remain open for economic impact, KV Trilok Chandra, the state’s health commissioner said.
“If there are five or more people on the same floor who are infected, we will declare that floor as a containment zone. In smaller apartments, it will be the entire block. In crowded localities, since we cannot ensure isolation or social distancing, we will move patients to the CCCs,” Chandra said.
Bengaluru has seen a sudden surge of cases and the government’s decision to rule out a lockdown completely but retain some restrictions like a night curfew has had little effect on the free--and often careless movement and mingling--of people in crowded places. The situation in other districts of the state has also deteriorated in recent weeks, leaving Karnataka firmly in the grip of the raging pandemic.
“In smaller localities, we have to test a higher number of people and then encourage more to come in for vaccination as a measure to contain the rise of cases in areas where there are more people,” said another senior BBMP official, requesting anonymity.
“We are trying to get as many hospital beds into the BBMP fold as possible at the earliest. We are also targeting hospitals with 25-50 beds. Different levels of patients have to go to different facilities, depending upon the seriousness of the particular patient,” the official added.
Representatives of private hospitals said they are bound to give half of their existing capacities to the government but there were quite a few beds that were occupied by walk-in Covid-19 patients or those suffering from non-Covid ailments.
“As and when they (patients) get discharged, we will give the beds to the government,” Dr Prasanna HM, the president-elect of the Private Hospitals & Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) said.
He added that though there were a higher number of infected persons now, those who require hospitalisation have reduced.
Experts on the subject and at least one member of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on Covid-19 in Karnataka said the government has to act at the earliest to secure hospital beds from the private sector.
“Non-availability (of beds) is an artificial thing and should be resolved immediately. There should not be any delay in getting the allocation from the private sector. The more we delay from the government side, the more problematic it will become,” Giridhara R Babu, epidemiologist and professor at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) said.
Babu, who is also a member of TAC on Covid-19 in Karnataka, added that stricter restrictions are required to be imposed in places like Bengaluru.
“Stricter regulations are definitely needed, especially to reduce the quantum of cases and its trajectory,” he added.