And is there any other issue that we should be worried about?

Does Bengaluru have enough beds to tackle the steady increase in COVID-19 casesVictoria Hospital Bengaluru/Representation Photo
Coronavirus Coronavirus Friday, June 19, 2020 - 12:16

With the number of patients contracting the novel coronavirus in Bengaluru increasing steadily, there have been concerns on whether or not there will be adequate beds to house patients in the city. The short answer to the question: most likely, yes. 

Bengaluru currently has 408 patients who have COVID-19 and the city has 3,324 beds dedicated for COVID-19 cases. The city has 975 beds vacant in government hospitals; 1,159 beds in private hospitals; and an additional 789 beds in dedicated COVID-19 centres. This is 17% of the total number of beds available across all hospitals both public and private – the total number of beds in the city stands at 19,359. 

Health and Family Welfare Department officials say that the city is unlikely to face a shortage of beds in the near future. However, there could be another issue that the city might face. Members of the expert committee for COVID-19 who TNM spoke to said that the lack of coordination between the Health Department and the Medical Education Department, is steadily becoming a cause for concern in managing the situation.

An expert committee was formed to look into the condition of government hospitals in Bengaluru dedicated for treating patients with COVID-19. The committee had recommended that the government come up with a segregation plan to include treatment facilities for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients in each of the tertiary-level government hospitals in the city like Victoria Hospital, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, KC General Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases. 

“But the government has not implemented this so far. The big problem here is the lack of coordination between the Medical Education Department and the Health Department. Medical college hospitals like NIMHANS, Victoria and RGCID fall under the Medical Education Department’s Director and the Deans of these colleges,” an expert committee member told TNM.

In Victoria Hospital for instance, there are 550 beds available. Of these, the government has decided to use 350 beds for COVID-19 and the remaining for other patients. In addition, there are 550 beds in the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute Super Specialty Hospital within Victoria’s campus in Bengaluru. However, the facility is currently being used as a quarantine centre for doctors and nurses working at Victoria Hospital. 

“It has been three weeks since the Medical Education Department said that a separate hotel would be converted into a quarantine centre for the health staff at Victoria, so the beds at BMCRI Hospital can be used to treat non-COVID patients who need hospitalisation. But this has not happened. This is because there is no coordination between the department and the Deans of these colleges,” the expert committee member said. 

Similarly, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences has offered to allocate an entire wing – Varuna Building – to treat patients with COVID-19. However, this facility has not yet been converted to a COVID-19 facility due to bureaucratic hurdles. The procedure to convert the wing for COVID-19 care requires the Medical Education Department to issue a letter to NIMHANS, asking it to allocate the wing for COVID-19 patients. Without this letter, doctors at NIMHANS say that they cannot convert the building into a COVID-19 treatment centre. “As soon as this is done, the beds will be ready to be occupied. We have everything in place,” a senior doctor at NIMHANS said. 

Infosys Foundation, which had offered to convert one of BBMP’s buildings into a COVID-19 healthcare centre, can offer around 300 beds. This facility is located right next to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital. It has been two months since the construction began and Health Department officials say it would take another couple of months for it to be completed. 

Expert committee members say that although the Health and Family Welfare Department officials are doing their best to tackle the situation, the lack of direction to medical colleges from the Medical Education department, is becoming a problem. 

“There is lack of coordination and lack of ownership. They do not get involved in activities related to the National Health Mission. We should look at states like Tamil Nadu where there are no separate departments like health and medical education. A Joint Director of the Health Department can be posted as a Dean of any medical college. This ensures that they don’t shy away from the responsibility,” the expert committee member added. 


 

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