With more than 6,000 Covid-19 cases being detected for the second consecutive day in Pune, local authorities were rushing to arrange for more hospital beds.
Pune district now has more than 50,000 active cases, and in the areas under the jurisdiction of Pune Municipal Corporation, more than 85 per cent of all the hospital beds, currently allocated for Covd-19 patients, are occupied. The divisional commissioner’s dashboard shows that of the 2,137 allocated beds, only 270 were currently vacant. Similarly, only 125 of the 1,363 beds with oxygen supply system are available. There are a total of 162 beds attached to ventilators, of which only 14 are available.
The situation is slightly better in Pimpri-Chinchwad, where 1,375 of the 3,443 allocated beds are currently vacant. There are some more beds available in other areas of the district as well, but because of the large number of cases in the last few days, these might not be enough.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Rubal Agarwal said PMC is working with hospitals to free up more beds for Covid patients. “The 80:20 rule (which mandates private hospitals to reserve 80 per cent of their bed capacity for Covid-19 patients at government rates) under the Epidemic Act is still in force. Anticipating a rise in demand, we asked hospitals today to free up more beds,” she said.
But she acknowledged that beds are not easily available. “Hospitals have a genuine problem. They are treating non-Covid patients, too, and they cannot all be discharged suddenly. It will take time. Our teams are now at 15 hospitals working with them to effectively manage the capacities,” she said.
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One of the problems being faced by the local administration is that allocation of hospital beds for Covid patients has come down by nearly half compared to the peak period last year. That’s because private hospitals have been taking in non-Covid patients whereas last year, very few non-Covid treatments were happening.
Bharati hospital, Noble hospital and other large hospitals have increased their bed strength but are now finding it difficult to stretch their capacities further. Dr H K Sale, executive director of Noble hospital, said his hospital had worked with PMC to earmark 180 beds for Covid patients. “But it is not just patients from the PMC areas who are coming in. Lots of patients from areas outside the PMC limits are also getting admitted and they cannot be turned away,” he said.
Dr Vijay Natarjan, CEO of Symbiosis Hospital, said the hospital had offered 500 beds last year, but now almost half of them are occupied by non-Covid patients. “Non-Covid beds are full even though some of them have postponed their surgeries. Overall, there are less beds available this time (for Covid-19 patients),” Dr Natarajan said.
Dr Madhur Rao, senior deputy medical administrator at KEM hospital, said all the 118 beds allocated for Covid-19 patients, including 18 in the ICU, were currently full.
Sahyadri Hospital said it had 222 Covid-19 patients at five of its centres. “This is way above the 178 number of beds that we had committed to the administration. So far, we have not had to deny anyone and we are trying our best to accommodate patients wherever possible. We are also offering home isolation services to asymptomatic patients,” Abrar Ali Dalal, chief operations officer of the hospital, said. In Pimpri-Chinchwad, the administration was restarting jumbo hospital facilities, while in the rural areas, people are being accommodated in Covid Care Centres.