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Few hospital beds, delay in test results key challenges for Bengaluru

Around this time last year, Bengaluru, like other cities, was under a lockdown and the Covid-19 caseload was under better control as against the sharp spike it is witnessing in the ongoing second wave of infections this year, officials and medical practitioners have said
By Sharan Poovanna, Bengaluru
UPDATED ON APR 14, 2021 12:35 AM IST

Around this time last year, Bengaluru, like other cities, was under a lockdown and the Covid-19 caseload was under better control as against the sharp spike it is witnessing in the ongoing second wave of infections this year, officials and medical practitioners have said.

Since March, the IT capital has registered a spurt in cases and in April, it noted a record-breaking surge thrice in around a week’s time. The sudden spike in cases has added to the pressure on the requirement of hospital beds in a city that accounts for almost 70% of the cases in Karnataka, making it difficult for authorities to find solutions amid the second wave of the pandemic.

From around 6,813 infections in February, the Covid tally in the state capital rose to 31,886 in March, according to data released by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). What’s worse is that in just the first 12 days of April, Bengaluru recorded 50,636 cases indicating the rapid spread of the disease. Karnataka health commissioner K V Trilok Chandra, however, claimed that the government is better prepared to tackle the situation this time. “We are definitely better prepared than the last time,” he told HT.

The city on Tuesday recorded 5,500 cases and 55 fatalitieswithin a span of 24 hours.

According to the civic body, at present, there are around 3,750 beds in the city, of which over 70% are occupied. Additionally, there are 600 beds in Covid care centres (CCC) for asymptomatic persons who may not be able to isolate themselves well in their homes.

“During its (Covid) peak last year (around September), we had around 11,000 beds and we are trying to have the same number this time around as well,” a senior BBMP official who did not wish to be named said. With the positivity rate going up to around 7% in Karnataka and Bengaluru, the numbers of people requiring hospitalisation has also increased, data released by the civic body showed.

Data also showed that nearly 4,000 people have been shifted to hospitals and CCCs in the city while around 20 infected individuals are untraceable.

The percentage of patients in hospitals and CCCs is as low as 8.72% in Bommanahalli zone and 15.26% in R R Nagar, indicating that an average 13% require some sort of medical assistance in the city.

Dr Prasanna H M, president-elect of Private Hospitals & Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), said the government has sought 50% of the beds from all private medical institutions. He also said that at present, a significant portion of the beds were occupied in private hospitals due to admission of both Covid and non-Covid persons and that the beds will be made available as and when they turn empty.

The doctor also pegged that there are around 6,000 to 7,000 beds in private hospitals and other institutions and that half of these would be made available to the government.

The PHANA president-elect also said that private hospitals are working on setting up a toll-free number to provide information to persons requiring hospitalisation and prevent them from moving from place to place in search of beds.

The unavailability of hospital beds and spike in mortality rate, experts said, are the two reasons why the state should observe a lockdown. Karnataka has resisted a shutdown on the grounds that the government has made better preparations compared to last year and to prevent any impact on the economy.

The B S Yediyurappa-led government has refused to impose any lockdown-like measures but conceded to announcing a 10-day night curfew from April 10 to 20 in seven districts, including Bengaluru, after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8.

“We have conducted 2.2 crore Covid tests out of which 85% are RT-PCR, he said. People should cooperate in controlling the pandemic. We have not said that lock down will be imposed. But we are appealing to the public not to make lock down inevitable,” K Sudhakar, Karnataka’s health minister said on Monday.

The district administration of Bengaluru aims to conduct around 100,000 tests per day to contain the surge. Besides this, the state government hopes that the ongoing vaccination drive across large apartment complexes and offices will reduce the number of persons requiring hospitalisation.

However, increased testing has made it difficult for laboratories to collect samples from home, forcing people to physically visit medical facilities for the same.

Besides, the sudden rush has made it difficult for authorities to provide results of Covid tests on time. According to officials, the average delivery of test results for RT-PCR now stood at around 48 hours in most places in the state capital.

“Most of the districts are delivering within a day. There have been a few isolated instances where people have not provided their contact number correctly or were not reachable. Otherwise, in most places, the results are being delivered within a day,” Chandra clarified.

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