Mumbai: The demand for Covid-19 beds at major private hospitals has increased because of the surge in the daily Covid cases in the last two weeks. Now, there is a 24-hour waiting period for those seeking admission. According to the civic body dashboard, more than 80 per cent of Covid beds in the city are vacant, and only 10-15 per cent of cases need hospitalisation. However, private hospital authorities said because of the floating population of patients, beds are not vacant and they have been getting mild to moderately symptomatic patients who are being discharged in three days. Hospital authorities have now decided to follow the new home isolation guidelines issued by the civic body on January 6.
“We are seeing a huge demand for beds and trying to meet the commitments we have made but there are challenges. One of the challenges is the demand is more than the resources we have right now. We are not in a position to meet everyone’s demand for beds currently,” said Joy Chakraborty, the chief operating officer, P D Hinduja Hospital. He said they were trying to reduce the waiting period to less than 24 hours. “Non-Covid work is coming down and we are diverting our resources to Covid treatment,” he added.
Recently, the civic body had directed private hospitals to reserve 80 per cent of the total beds and 100 per cent of ICU beds for Covid patients, as per the rule earlier. Moreover, asymptomatic patients without comorbidities were not to be allotted beds in private hospitals, and the discharge period for asymptomatic patients was to be three days, down from the earlier seven-day period. The circular also warned hospitals against overcharging patients failing which action would be taken under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Doctors from private hospitals said most patients were from the upper class and wanted beds at private hospitals, leading to a shortage of beds, with needy patients having to be on the waiting list. “The main reason for beds not being vacant is because most patients are moderately symptomatic, following which they need to be hospitalised. As a result, there is a floating population of patients. However, patients are discharged in three to four days after their reports are negative but because of a surge in cases beds are full and we have to keep patients on standby,” he said.
Considering the fact that there are approximately 10-12 per cent symptomatic patients every day, the requirement of hospital beds is likely to increase sharply now. Since more than 95 per cent cases are being detected from non-slum areas, there is tremendous demand for beds in private hospitals. Patients are reluctant to go to Covid jumbo hospitals and BMC hospitals.
“It has come to our notice that symptomatic Covid patients are pointing out the need for Covid beds in private hospitals. Therefore, all private hospitals are hereby directed that they shall immediately scale up the number of Covid beds to the highest level which existed during the peak of the second wave in 2021,” said a senior civic official.
Jitendra Haryan, CEO, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, said, with the uptick in cases in Mumbai, the demand for beds and other facilities at private hospitals had soared. “In our separate wing, ‘Jaslok Annex’, we have four designated floors for Covid patients,” he said. In view of the current situation, they have also allocated additional wards for Covid patients.
“There has been an increase in admission of Covid patients especially in wards. Fortunately, we have witnessed shorter stays of Covid patients as compared to the second wave. Along with that, most Covid patients are either isolated at home and have mild symptoms. If the patient needs admission due to symptoms, age, comorbidities or various other reasons, we admit them and offer them counselling as well. Patients with mild symptoms are opting for home isolation packages provided by Jaslok Hospital which include virtual consultations by our specialists, nutritional assessment and guidance, psychological counselling and Covid care kits,” he said.