While there is no scarcity of medical oxygen or ICU beds, the number of medical care personnel getting infected is keeping the Karnataka Health Department and hospital administrations on guard.

Doctors working wearing PPE kits on the hospital floorRepresentational image/ PTI
news COVID-19 Saturday, January 15, 2022 - 17:17

As Bengaluru, like the rest of Karnataka and the country, faces a steep rise in of COVID-19 infections in the third wave, doctors and other healthcare professionals falling ill is becoming a potential cause for concern. Currently, Bengaluru is seeing a record surge in cases with more than 20,000 cases recorded on Friday, January 14 and 90,266 cases in the previous seven days. While the low severity of the disease is a sign of relief, the potential unavailability of doctors and other support staff is worrisome. Since the start of the year, the number of persons testing positive in Karnataka is high but the severity of the disease is low compared to the first two waves. State Health Minister Dr Sudhakar K too on Friday said that only 6% of COVID-19 patients in January 2022 needed hospitalisation. According to state government data, around 100 beds out of a total 3,000 ICU beds are occupied across the state.

Read: 6% of COVID patients in Karnataka needed hospitalisation in Jan 2022, data shows

It may be recalled that the peak of the second wave saw many people dying due to lack of ICU beds and liquid medical oxygen in the city and across the country. Unlike that, the number of COVID-19 fatalities have not risen exponentially. There is no steep demand for medical oxygen or ICU beds either. However, unlike the first two waves, the number of medical care personnel getting infected is keeping the state Health Department and hospital administrations on guard.

In KCG General Hospital, one of the major government hospitals in the city, a total of 41 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have COVID-19 currently. Dr Venkateshaiah, the hospital’s Superintendent, told NM, “All of them, which includes 12 doctors, have mild to moderate symptoms, with the majority of them in home isolation. We’re expecting most of them to be back on duty within a week’s time. Till now, we’ve been able to manage without much difficulty but if the situation deteriorates then it will affect service delivery.”

A similar situation was reported from Victoria Hospital, CV Raman Nagar General Hospital and Bowring Hospital. In CV Raman Nagar GH, 4 out of 50 doctors are positive and the hospital is able to function as usual. In Bowring Hospital, 11 out of 200 doctors are infected.

Randeep D, IAS, State Health Commissioner, told TNM that in light of the high incidence of infections among doctors, the state government has issued an infection control protocol for healthcare providers to all districts. The protocol is meant for doctors at the individual level as well as sanitisation, shuffling of staff members and other exercises at the hospital level. “We’re awaiting reports from the respective hospitals on this issue. We will review them to ensure strict adherence to WHO protocols and try to minimise infections among doctors and other caregivers,” he said.

He added, “Right now the situation is not adverse anywhere, where hospitals have been forced to cut down on services as the infected doctors are mostly in home isolation and require no additional medical supervision.”

Not only government hospitals, but the same trend is also seen in private hospitals. Dr HM Prasanna, President of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said that on average 10-15% of medical staff, including doctors, are down with COVID-19. “Since the number of hospitalisations are less compared to the first and second wave, there is no crisis so far,” he added.

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