Pune hospitals struggle to cope with spike in COVID-19 cases; data entry responsibilities add to burden
Although around 100 private hospitals in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad are treating COVID-19 patients, shortages of beds remain
Swati Patil can’t stop crying. It has been ten days since she lost her mother — the unavailability of a hospital bed possibly being one of the causes of her death.
“If only we had got a bed for dialysis, she would still be alive today,” Patil said, holding her mother’s photo close to her heart.
She recalls, “There was nothing wrong with her. She was coughing the other day and the family doctor said that we should go for a COVID-19 test. All of us tested negative except my mother. It took us four days to find a bed in the municipal-run Kasturba Hospital in Somwar Peth, which has 25 beds allotted for COVID-19 patients. All the private hospitals said they were full. Two days after she was admitted, she was gone. I couldn’t even meet her.” Her mother was 61 and her death was recorded as having occured due to comorbidities.
As COVID-19 cases rise in Pune, the shortage of beds in both public and private hospitals is assuming serious proportions. This, despite there being around 100 private hospitals in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad which are treating COVID-19 patients.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has launched an app as well as a dashboard which gives information on the number beds available and their location. But given the reluctance of private hospitals to depute their staff to collate and upload this information on the website, there is no guarantee that the data on the website is accurate. Private hospitals, in particular, are demanding that the PMC use its staff for this data entry work.
Jumbo care centres
Meanwhile, a jumbo COVID-19 care centre with 1,600 beds has been set up on the SSPMS ground near RTO and at the College of Engineering Pune (COEP) ground. Of these, 1,200 will be oxygen beds and 400 will be ICU beds.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar had directed the setting up of such care centres immediately to handle the sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in the district. The Pune administration is considering two more sites, among them PCMC’s Balnagari and auto-cluster which is being converted into a 1,000-bedded COVID-19 care centre. Both facilities will be operational soon.
Projections indicate that by the end of August, the number of novel coronavirus patients could well cross the two lakh mark in Pune city.
In the Wakad locality, which has reported a high number of coronavirus cases, some housing societies like Vedanta Co-operative housing society and Solana Housing society have stepped in to create quarantine zones within the premises to help tide over the problem of shortage of beds.
A 30-year-old employee of a cane manufacturing unit, who tested positive recently, said, “I live with my wife in a two-bedroom house, so I have self isolated myself in one of the bedrooms. My wife prepares food and leaves it near the door. Members of my housing society who were informed of my condition have all helped, as have the doctors at Sahyadri Hospital and the municipal corporation's medical officers. The hospital provided me with a kit which includes an oximeter, thermometer, sanitiser and mask.”
Lack of co-ordination a challenge
According to the official protocol, those with mild symptoms are home quarantined. But for some people who need hospitalisation, a shortage of beds remains a challenge, according to reports.
The Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) hospital association, however, insists that most private hospitals are fully cooperating in fighting the pandemic. However, the IMA's Pune president Dr Sanjay Patil said that there is a lack of co-ordination and communication with various government offices.
Patil said, “Almost all private hospitals are presently full. Although the recovery rate is good, the main problem is of managing asymptomatic patients at home, especially among poorer people."
Private hospitals and practitioners also report other challenges, including compulsory documentation and updating of data, poaching of staff by municipal hospitals, price caps leading to losses and the burden of more taxes for biowaste disposal.
Tussle over data entry
A private doctor in a clinic that is presently working with the PMC on COVID-19 cases said, "The number of patients is on the rise and we are treating them. But all this administrative work hinders our working hours.”
Dr HK Sale, executive director, Noble hospital, Hadapsar said, “All the tertiary care hospitals in the city are reeling under the pressure. We increased ICU beds from 24 to 31, but is it not enough. It is difficult to work in these conditions. We are following the new government protocols to discharge cured patients in less than ten days, after giving them a home care package. But this is not enough, given the rising numbers.”
Dr Sale added that non-COVID-19 surgical patients have also increased in recent days, and these patients too have to undergo COVID-19 tests. Expectant mothers have to undergo COVID-19 testing five days prior to their due date.
Rubal Agarwal, Additional Municipal Commission in the PMC said, “The civic body has till date conducted 3,02,945 tests. The recovery rate in the city has increased to 70.29 percent and mortality rate has decreased to 2.35 percent,” said Rubal.
Dr Pavan Salve, PCMC health and medical officer, said that while cases in and around Pune are increasing currently, his assessment is that by the end of August, the increase in positive cases in the city will slow down. “Although PCMC will be crossing the 30,000 active cases mark, cases will come under control in the next 15 days.”
People in the city are keeping their fingers and hoping this prediction turns out to be true.
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