Chandigarh: Patients gasp for air as PGIMER faces ventilator ‘shortage’
Ventilators are crucially important for hospitals, but the region’s most prominent hospital, the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), has a severe shortage of ventilators, the machines that sustain the lives of critically ill patients.
About 39 out of 236 ventilators across PGIMER are not working, data from the institute reveals. Even the heart of the hospital, the emergency, has 11 non-functional ventilators. Seven are not working in the main ICU, nine in neonatal surgical ICU and five in respiratory ICU.
Most are obsolete. Manju Wadwalkar, public relations officer, PGIMER, says, “These machines have outgrown their lives and process to buy new machines is on.”
An ordeal for attendants
Almost every second bed in PGIMER’s Advanced Trauma Centre (ATC) has an unconscious patient and an attendant standing next to him or her, pumping an ambu bag with oxygen. These manual resuscitators need to be pumped continuously, hardly giving time to attendants to take a break.
“It has been four days since I have been pumping oxygen to keep my father alive. My uncles help out for a few hours, we have to keep pumping oxygen continuously,” said a 16-year-old boy at the ATC whose father is an accident victim.
The patient needs to be put immediately on a ventilator, a machine designed to automatically pump air in and out of the lungs to assist those with breathing problems.
“Doctors say no ventilators are available,” says the youngster.
PGIMER data reveals that in January 2018, 29 trauma patients were brought to the ICU of the ATC, with delays in their admission varying from nine hours to 12 days.
“There are a few ventilators at the ATC ICU, but at any given moment, there are at least 15 patients in urgent need of one. Hence, they have to keep waiting, depending on their attendants to keep them alive with ambu bags,” said a resident doctor who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“The issue is not about the shortage of ventilators. The problem is that adequate critical care facilities are not available. There’s no money or manpower,” said a senior doctor, again on condition of anonymity.
He said that it takes around Rs 1 crore to set up an ICU. “While private hospitals charge patients anything from Rs 25,000 to Rs 3 lakh per day, the costs at PGIMER just come to a few hundred.”
Talking about the non-functional ventilators, he said, “with time, machines need replacement and we are buying new ones.”
The city’s oldest government hospital, Government Multi Specialty Hospital (GMSH-16), does not have a single ventilator.
The process to buy six ventilators has been going on for over two years. “Tenders have already been floated for six ventilators,” said Vandana Gupta, medical superintendent, Sector 16.
The condition is no better at GMCH-32, which has only 27 ventilators.
According to Dr BS Chavan, there are 27 ventilators, all functional, in the hospital. “There is no proposal to buy more ventilators at this stage but we will buy the machines later for the emergency block.”