Given the rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases in the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has resolved to increase the total bed capacity in Covid care facilities to 10,000. But almost two months have passed and the BMC is yet to achieve its earlier target of converting the SevenHills Hospital in Marol to the country's 'biggest Covid facility',with 1,500 beds. Civic officials have attributed this delay to shortage of staff.
The surge in cases has caused the civic body to abandon its idea of makeshift hospitals, but neither have the number of beds in the city been increased in hospitals that are fully equipped, which has resulted in patients being turned away.
In April, The Free Press Journal had reported that the BMC and the state government had planned to convert SevenHills into the biggest isolation facility in India. “After 57 days, only 1,000 beds have been set up at SevenHills. Given that 150 beds were ready until April 1, this effectively means only 850 beds have been added in 57 days,” said an official.
The reason for this, according to senior doctors, is the huge shortage of medical and para-medical staff at the hospital since its reopening. “Currently there are only 176 doctors and we need more than 600 to handle patients. Given this severe staff shortage, it was pointless to claim that SevenHills Hospital would be India’s biggest isolation facility,” he said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, the bed capacity at SevenHills was supposed to be increased in a phased manner. "By next week, 500 more will be set up. We have decided to increase beds phasewise. We started with 300 beds and now, there are 1,004. Had we set up 1,500 beds at a time, it would have been difficult to manage, as we needed trained staff to handle it,” he said.
Dr Balakrishna Adsul, in-charge of SevenHills Hospital, said “A large number of health workers are also needed, if the number of beds are increased. As more health workers become available, we are increasing the number of beds. The process of hiring the necessary health workers is underway. Chances are, by June 6-7, the number of beds in SevenHills Hospital will reach the 1,500 mark.”
The hospital wants to equip at least 300 beds with ICU facilities, but the shortage of intensivists is the stumbling block. It is currently able to operate only 68 ICU beds, of which 13 are managed by Reliance which has set up 250 beds there as part of its corporate social responsibility.
At Nair Hospital, a dedicated Covid facility, it is the same story. There are 1,500 beds, but only 1,024 beds are currently being used for corona patients in the hospital. “We cannot increase the bed capacity any further, as it can only accommodate 1,000 patients,” said doctor.