78% of COVID-19 patients had to use 'connections and clout' to secure ICU bed, finds survey
At least 92 percent of those who participated in LocalCircles' survey said it should be mandatory for all hospitals to list real-time ICU bed availability on their websites and entrances.
Amid rising coronavirus cases in the country, a survey has revealed that 78 percent of COVID-19 patients who needed an ICU bed had to use “connections and clout” while only four percent were able to secure a bed through the routine process.
LocalCircles, a community social media platform that enables people and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions, said it received many complaints from across the country about not being able to find an ICU bed at government or private hospitals and decided to conduct a survey to assess the situation.
It received over 17,000 responses from over 211 districts across India. Of the total respondents, 52 percent were from Tier 1 cities, 26 percent from Tier 2 and 22 percent were from Tier 3, 4 and rural districts. Sixty-five percent of the respondents were men while 35 percent were women.
At least 92 percent said it should be mandatory for all hospitals to list real-time ICU bed availability on their websites and entrances, as per the survey.
LocalCircles' first question to citizens was about the experiences of people in their social network with regards to getting a COVID-19 ICU bed.
To ensure that correct feedback is sought, respondents were requested to call up their contacts in case they were unaware about the detailed experience of their acquaintances and family members while getting an ICU bed.
Fifty-five percent of the respondents, who said that they did not have any person in their network needing a ICU bed, were taken out of the sample and the remaining responses were analysed. It was found that 38 percent respondents had to use clout/connections to secure the ICU bed while seven percent said they had to follow up extensively to secure the ICU bed; 40 percent said they had to use their clout/connections, follow up extensively and they also had to escalate the issue via social media or complain to the government to secure the ICU bed.
Seven percent of the respondents said they had to bribe (cash or kind) hospital/government officials to get the ICU bed, while only four percent said they got the ICU bed without any of the above. Another four percent said they did not get an ICU bed at all.
This shows that only four percent of those who needed a COVID-19 ICU bed were able to get it through the routine process, while 78 percent had to use connections and clout.
In Delhi, for example, patients complained that the Delhi government’s app ‘Delhi Corona’ shows ICU beds available in some hospitals; however, when they call that hospital, they are told that the bed is not available, LocalCircles founder Sachin Taparia told Indian Express.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Monday said there are around 1,000 ICU beds available in the National Capital. Around 1,500 non-ICU beds and over 500 ICU beds were added over the last few days, he said.
"The number of vacant beds is available on Delhi Corona app... nothing is being concealed," news agency PTI quoted him as saying.
The health minister also attributed the high occupancy of ICU beds in private hospitals to people coming from outside.
"People coming in from outside prefer private hospitals. They make up their mind in advance and directly go to these four-five hospitals they have heard of... such as Max, Apollo and Fortis. That's why ICU beds are full there," he said.
"Most of them have occupied ICU beds in private hospitals. There are 1,500 such patients admitted to Delhi hospitals," he further stated.
In the next question on LocalCircles' survey, people were asked, whether it should be made mandatory for hospitals to list real-time ICU bed availability on their websites and at entrances, given the shortage of ICU beds.
A whopping 92 percent responded in favour of the measure while seven percent voted against it. The remaining one percent chose the "can't say" option.
"According to a lot of citizens, those with clout and connections are able to get an ICU bed even if they have mild symptoms while many common citizens including healthcare workers with severe symptoms are being denied an ICU bed or being granted the same much later. Several examples have been shared.," LocalCircles said in a release.
India has reported over 54.87 lakh COVID-19 cases while 87,882 persons have succumbed to the disease till date.
India has as many as 15,403 COVID-19 treatment facilities with 15,54,022 isolation beds, 63,758 ICU beds and 2,32,505 o-xygen supported beds, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey told the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
With inputs from PTI
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