On October 9, the number of people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Bengaluru was 5,009. Over the last few months, the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the city have been increasing and the hospitals, especially government hospitals, are running out of ICU and ventilator beds. As of October 9, there were 62,104 active cases in Bengaluru of which 14,261 patients were admitted to designated COVID-19 hospitals both public and private. As many as 1,101 patients are in COVID Care Centres and the rest are in home isolation.
On Friday, a resident of north Bengaluru, who had contracted COVID-19 three weeks ago and was in home isolation developed breathing difficulties. He was rushed to a private hospital after an inordinate delay in finding beds. The hospital, his relative said, charged Rs 70,000 per day for treatment - much above the government fixed rates. The cost of COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals was capped at Rs 5,200 per day for a general bed, Rs 8,200 per day for ICU bed with oxygen and Rs 10,000 for ICU bed with ventilator. The prices were capped by the Karnataka Health Department in June this year. As they began looking for a ventilator bed in a government hospital, they were unable to find one. The man died 12 hours after being admitted to the private hospital.
Similarly, on September 15, a 46-year-old man, who had developed breathing difficulties, was unable to find a bed in a government hospital. He was referred to a private hospital in Bommanahalli, who turned him away and referred him to Apollo Hospital in Bannerghatta Road. The man died en route to Apollo.
On October 1, a 67-year-old woman with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness, was admitted to Navachetana Hospital 24 hours after she began having trouble breathing. Her son, a blue collar worker, said that the costs at the private hospital was too high for them to bear and that they had been running from pillar to post to find a ventilator bed at a government hospital.
â€śWe were not able to bear the cost at all as we did not have insurance. After four days, some activists helped us get a bed at a government hospital near Shivajinagar. I had to take loans from friends and family members to pay Rs 3.5 lakh in hospital bills,â€ť Sandeep*, a 32-year-old construction worker told TNM.
As of 12 pm on Saturday, 17 of the 41 ICU beds across 14 government hospitals across the city were vacant, and only four of the 37 ventilator beds vacant. There were zero ICU or ventilator beds available in government medical colleges.
The 118 dedicated COVID-19 private hospitals have 371 ICU beds and 241 ventilator beds. Of these there are only 95 ICU beds and 61 ventilator beds that are vacant. Of the 154 ICU beds in private medical colleges, only one is vacant. All of the 123 ventilator beds have been occupied in private medical colleges.
According to the officials at the Department of Health and Family Welfare, the primary reason for shortage is because beds in government hospitals are filling up faster and the private hospitals are charging more than the government-mandated costs.
â€śWe have conducted checks on many hospitals, which have been fined and yet this is happening. A sub-committee has been constituted which also conducted checks and 22 private hospitals were doing this. Besides, 35 private COVID-19 hospitals for not reserving adequate numbers of beds for patients,â€ť a senior official with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palikeâ€™s Health Department said.
The Karnataka High Court on October 6, pulled up the BBMP while hearing a writ petition where several applications related to COVID-19 were being heard. The HC had asked the BBMP to provide full details on the number of beds available and how the state government plans to ensure that adequate care is provided to those in need. The BBMP is expected to file its response by October 11 as the case is scheduled for hearing on October 12.