COVID-19 in Mumbai: As cases surge, city's top hospitals face acute shortage of ICU beds
Dilip Patni

Even as the civic body plans to increase the number of Covid beds from 13,000 to 21,000, the city is already reeling under a shortage of beds, as nearly 80 per cent of Intensive Care Units (ICU) beds in major hospitals like Nanavati, Lilavati and Bombay Hospitals are full. There are a total of 169 ICU beds vacant in private hospitals. Doctors have raised concerns over the decision of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to increase isolation beds, instead of focusing on ICU beds that are in demand.

According to the BMC Covid dashboard, there are 1,627 ICU beds, of which only 324 beds are vacant. Similarly, of the 1,000 ventilator beds, only 170 are vacant. The city is currently the second worst-affected district in the country after Pune. “Of the 480 ICU beds in private hospitals, only 169 were vacant until March 31. Of the 1,627 ICU beds of the BMC, only 155 were available,” said an official.

However, according to Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani, currently, the situation is in hand and there has been a sudden rise in the numbers, causing an increased demand for beds. “There is a slight bed crunch in the private sector but ICU beds are available in the public sector. Also, we will be installing additional ICU beds in the next three days,” he said.

Patients calling private hospitals to enquire about bed availability are being asked to wait or enquire elsewhere. “Daily, we get more than 20 calls for Covid beds. But because of the floating population of Covid patients, all beds are full and there is a waiting list of more than 100,” said a doctor from a private hospital.

He further said, the workload was heavier this year as compared to last year because of the second wave and the rising footfall of non-Covid patients. “Currently we have to manage both Covid and non-Covid patients, due to which our workload has increased. Patients from high-rises have reserved beds in advance although they do not require ICU or oxygen beds. We are desperately hoping numbers begin falling and everything stabilises or else we will be back to square one again,” he said.

Health experts, meanwhile, are attributing the bed crisis to lack of adherence to social distancing and inappropriate Covid behaviour which has played a major role in the surge.

“After almost four to five months, we are hearing that there is a shortage of beds in the city but still, the BMC has the situation in control and is preparing for the future. But since cases have surged, so has the demand for beds as there are not many vacant ICU beds in private hospitals. The BMC should focus on increasing ICU and oxygen beds instead of isolation beds, considering 80 per cent are asymptomatic, due to which they can be home-quarantined, while the remaining need hospitalisation, and 4-5 per cent need ICU or oxygen beds,” he said.

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