While officials say ICU beds are still available at jumbo Covid centres, patients who prefer to be treated at private hospitals are struggling to find a bed.

The BMC’s decision last week to bar 72 “nursing homes” — that is, private hospitals with less than 50 beds — from treating Covid-19 patients has led to an acute shortage of ICU beds in private hospitals across parts of the city. On Monday, Mumbai Mirror tried looking for an ICU bed at Fortis, Hiranandani, Lilavati, Jaslok, Hinduja, Nanavati, and Breach Candy hospitals. All of them said they didn’t have a single ICU bed available. While ICU beds are available at the BMC’s jumbo centres at BKC, Goregaon, NSCI and in Dahisar, many patients are reluctant to get admitted to these centres. A top BMC official, however, said that as of Monday, 239 ICU beds were vacant across both private and public hospitals.

Mulund is one of the areas that has borne the brunt of the BMC’s decision. Since the ban came into effect last Wednesday, four small private hospitals in Mulund have stopped admitting Covid-19 patients, and Fortis Hospital, the area’s only major Covid-19 facility, has run out of ICU beds. Fortis Hospital has 60 Covid-19 beds, of which 16 are ICU beds. There are no civic- or state-run hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients across Mulund and Bhandup. While there is a 1,000-bed jumbo Covid centre at Richardson & Cruddas in Mulund, the ICU beds there are not functional.

Mihir Kotecha, BJP MLA from Mulund, said, “We are still seeing around 45 cases every day in Mulund. We also get patients from Bhandup. But there are no ICU beds available in Mulund since the BMC removed Manisha, Platinum, Apex and Aashirwad Hospitals from the list of Covid-19 hospitals. People don’t like going to jumbo centres in BKC or Nesco in Goregaon.”

He added that the Richardson & Cruddas centre, which was supposed to have 215 ICU beds by June, still doesn’t have a single one. “Last night, a couple aged 75 and 70 from the ACC Road area in Mulund tested positive for Covid-19. They don’t want to go to a jumbo centre and there are no Covid-19 ICU beds anywhere else in Mulund. The Mithaghar School Covid centre had 20 ICU beds but they are no longer admitting new patients,” Kotecha said.

He added that a 56-year old woman who tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday was asked to get admitted to a hospital. “She said she didn’t want to go far away as she lives alone. But there are no ICU beds in any private hospital in Mulund,” Kotecha said.

The BMC decided last week to bar 72 small hospitals from admitting Covid-19 patients, saying such facilities were largely responsible for the city’s high death rate. The decision came after discussions between municipal officials, the state appointed Covid-19 task force, and doctors at top private hospitals.

BMC officials said that most of these hospitals didn’t have ICU beds or specialist doctors on their rolls. They also said that an audit of Covid-19 deaths in the city revealed that 41 per cent had occurred in private hospitals as of mid-August. When this figure was further broken down during a meeting last week between Municipal Commissioner IS Chahal and CEOs of top private hospitals, it emerged that most deaths either occurred at smaller hospitals or involved patients who were recently transferred to larger hospitals from smaller ones.

Officials at LH Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, which has 16 ICU beds, also told Mirror on Monday that not a single ICU bed was vacant. Its CEO Sujit Chatterjee said, “We are still getting critical cases every day. Our ICU beds are hardly ever empty as most critically ill patients spend three to four weeks at the hospital.”

But Dr Gautam Bhansali, a consultant physician at Bombay Hospital who has been appointed as coordinator between the BMC and 33 private hospitals, said he didn’t see “any major crisis”. He said, “We have a total of 590 ICU beds across 33 private hospitals. As of Monday, 27 ICU beds were vacant. I don’t see any major crisis to get an ICU bed. The overall situation has improved.”

Dr Bhansali added, “Even if ICU beds in private hospitals are full, jumbo facilities still have vacant ICU beds. But often patients refuse to get admitted to jumbo centres, which creates [artificial] storages.”

Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner (health), agreed, saying there were enough vacant ICU beds in both private and public hospitals across the city. “We have a total of 1,435 ICU beds in public and private hospitals. As of Monday, 239 ICU beds were vacant. There are over 50 vacant ICU beds at the BKC jumbo centre alone. We have instructed doctors there to give preference to patients from the eastern suburbs. Patients from the eastern suburbs can also go to Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar and Bhabha Hospital in Kurla. Both hospitals have ICU beds. They can also go to Seven Hills Hospitals in Jogeshwari, which also has vacant ICU beds and very good facilities,” Kakani said.

He added, “Most people prefer to get admitted to a hospital near their home but an ICU bed may not alway be available nearby. This doesn’t mean there is a shortage of ICU beds. Patients can get admitted to any of the jumbo centres, which all have ICU beds.”

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Meanwhile, top doctors told Mirror on Monday that the BMC’s Covid-19 dashboard, which is meant to keep track of the number of beds available at facilities across the city, was not being updated regularly. “Dr Deepak Baid, president of association of consultants, said, “The idea behind the dashboard has been lost. It is not being updated in real time. We noticed, for example, that the jumbo centre at BKC has not updated its numbers for nearly 24 hrs. There are many other such hospitals that have not updated their numbers for a while. This leads to delays and, in turn, an increase in the death rate.” Kakani claimed that the dashboard was being updated regularly but admitted that there could be delays on holidays and during festivals.



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