In just three days, Bengaluru has seen a significant rise in COVID-19 patients needing ICU (intensive care units) beds. While there were 51 patients in Bengaluru needing intensive care on March 25, the number rose to 79 by March 28. This spike comes after a long period of gradual decrease in patients needing ICU care since December 2020, along with a gradual drop in cases. According to data by the Karnataka government, the number of ICU patients had gone down to 49 on March 4, from 121 on February 25, but have now begun to rise again.
In view of the spike in critical cases, experts point to the absence of a real-time bed allocation system, which was disbanded earlier and warn that this might turn into a crisis. Between June and August last year, it was widely reported that many patients had died due to lack of oxygen beds and absence of critical care facilities. At the time, the state government had roped in private hospitals and reserved parts of their infrastructure for COVID-19 care.
Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar on March 18 had assured that the real-time dashboard, which had been disbanded in November last year, would be brought back soon. But as of Monday, there is no confirmation on when the dashboard will go live again.
Sources in the Chief Ministerâ€™s office confirmed that this would be a topic of discussion at Monday's meeting chaired by the BS Yediyurappa along with the COVID-19 state Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and Health Department officials.
Giridhara R Babu, a senior epidemiologist who is part of the TAC, took to Twitter on Monday and said other than having a system of real-time information on the availability of beds, vaccine coverage should be ramped up for vulnerable populations. He also urged the government to free ICU beds in private hospitals again at this point.
Symptomatic approach & early identification of respiratory distress is the most important step in saving lives. Pulse oximetry, centralized distribution of beds & timely referrals are essential.
Freeing up the critical care beds for covid19 by private hospitals is needed
2 of Nâ€” Dr Giridhara R Babu (@epigiri) March 29, 2021
Rapid vaccine coverage of vulnerable population will help in reducing deaths; done in parallel with containment measures. Impractical to expect health workers to toil all these by themselves. Tasks in containment such as contact tracing should be done by other departments.â€” Dr Giridhara R Babu (@epigiri) March 29, 2021
Along with an upswing in case numbers since the start of March, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 induced deaths in Bengaluru. As of Sunday, 98 deaths were recorded in the city in March compared to 88 in February. Like the number of cases, the number of deaths had also been reducing gradually on a monthly basis since October last year.