In Kerala's Kozhikode and Ernakulam, ICU beds, ventilators are filling up fast

Ernakulam recorded 5,287 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while Kozhikode reported 4,327.
Doctor in PPE kit treating patient in ICU
Doctor in PPE kit treating patient in ICU
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Ernakulam and Kozhikode districts in Kerala are witnessing a rising number of COVID-19 cases, which was creating an alarming situation for the entire state, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a press meet on Wednesday. Ernakulam recorded 5,287 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while Kozhikode reported 4,327. On Tuesday, Kozhikode had more than 5,000 new cases and Ernakulam had 4,270. The latter has also reported the highest active patient count in the state at 43,853, while Kozhikode has 37,825.

In recent days, District Collector S Suhas has asked all private hospitals in the Ernakulam district to set up first-line treatment centres (FLTCs) for category A patients (asymptomatic or mild cases) as cases surge. No other district in the state is treating more than 30,000 patients currently.

The state has also asked private hospitals to set aside 25% of beds for COVID-19 patients, but some of the hospitals have allotted more than the required percentage. However, last week still saw many hospitals in Ernakulam reporting ICU beds and ventilators nearing capacity. In some instances, patients had to return from private hospitals due to lack of ventilators. There is a fear that the cases will overwhelm the healthcare system.

“Private hospitals reported that ICU beds and ventilators are full. We can set up first-line treatment centres, but what would happen to patients who belong to Category C (persons requiring hospital treatment)? It is concerning but as of now, we can manage,” a government medical officer in Ernakulam said.

“In the second wave, symptomatic patients are higher and some have more breathing trouble. That is why FLTCs will not be sufficient," he added.

In Kozhikode, the situation is also severe and the test positivity rate is around 26%. The district has decided to convert a few schools into FLTCs. The 10 local bodies of Olavanna, Velom, Peruvayal, Chemanchery, Kadalundy, Mavoor, Feroke, Panangad, Ulliyeri and Kakkodi have recorded TPRs of more than 30%, and are considered ‘critical local self-government institutions (LSGIs)’. Lockdown-like restrictions have been imposed in various areas as of Wednesday, and police have been charged with patrolling to check for breach of COVID-19 protocol.  

"It is very difficult to get a bed in the hospitals of the district. In government hospitals, we have 2200 ventilators and 2560 ICU beds. 40% of ventilators are already used and 60% of ICU beds are also occupied. If this situation continues for some more days, it will be full," Dr Muraleedharan M, vice-president of the Indian Medical Association in Kerala North zone told TNM.

He noted that in many cases, people do not have severe symptoms but rush to the hospital out of fear, even though hospital treatment is not necessary. 

"People panic and run to the hospital. We can remain at home, we can have a pulse oximeter and a thermometer. Patients can check two times a day. Only when oxygen levels are below 93, they should go to a hospital. Otherwise they can be at home. Our healthcare system will collapse if people panic like this," he said.

He also stated that doctors on the frontline have yet to receive facilities towards better treatment that the IMA had requested. He said the IMA had recommended a lockdown in the state to stop the spread of cases. "A short lockdown will help to strengthen the healthcare system," he said

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