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New Delhi: With close to 10,000 deaths, India has become the fourth worst-hit country in the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has reported more than 3.4 lakh positive cases, with a recovery rate of 51 per cent, as more than 1.8 lakh people have recovered, as per the government data. The three worst-hit states in the country are Maharashtra (1,13,445 cases), Tamil Nadu (48,019 cases), Delhi (44,688 cases) respectively. It is important to note that in these states, the most cases are being reported from urban areas. Chennai has 34,245 cases and Mumbai stands at 45,478 cases of COVID-19. In these three cities, the overwhelming number of cases has put the health sector in jeopardy as both government and private hospitals are struggling to fight the pandemic.
Doctors working on the frontline of COVID-19 in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi talked to NDTV about the challenges being faced by the hospitals in tackling the virus.
Dr Hemant Deshmukh is the Chairman of KEM Hospital, Mumbai based government hospital that has been in the epicentre in the COVID-19 crisis in the city. Dr Deshmukh told NDTV that there has been a slight decrease in the clinical admission of COVID-19 patients in Mumbai in last few days, he said,
As evident from the data, there is a slight decrease in the clinical admission of patients in Mumbai in the last few days. I think the sudden spike was because of some of the containment zones which were very densely populated and also had a lot of migrant population. Here people were cramped into a small space and has a dense population. When these zones were contained with thorough monitoring, they started showing a steady decline in the number of cases.
Dr Deshmukh further said that many patients would come to hospitals when they were already critically ill, making it difficult for the hospitals to control the situation. He said,
Most patients in critical condition do not walk in to the hospital in good condition, they reach hospitals while they are already very critical. Initially in Mumbai, people couldn’t realise they have COVID and chose to stay indoors. They would generally reach hospitals after it has been 48 hours or more since the onset of symptoms. Some would only rush to the hospital when they felt critical and couldn’t breathe. Some patients who reached the hospital were in such conditions that they passed away within 12 hours of condition or had comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, among others. We have to realise that the sooner you reach hospitals the better care and treatment you will receive.
Dr Deshmukh further highlighted that instead of rushing to their nearest hospital, people rushed to the KEM Hospital, which created an issue for the people who needed genuine care.
Gautam Khanna, CEO of PD Hinduja Hospital, one of the largest private hospitals dealing with COVID-19 cases in Mumbai, told NDTV how private hospitals are doing their bit and as opposed to the popular belief, not monetising at such a crucial time.
In the last month and a half, there has been a lot of coordination of private and government hospitals. We are putting in a lot of effort to identify the extra capacity for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals. My hospital has added 2,300 isolation beds and 385 ICU beds for government support and we have dedicated a separate building for COVID. But, we have to keep in mind that all private hospitals cannot be converted into COVID hospitals as it requires special isolation facilities, so that the infected patients don’t come in contact with other patients. 80 per cent of the health sector in India is in private hands, so it is important to realise that this is not the time to monetise from a pandemic, but to fight it, Dr Khanna said.
Dr Mohamed Rela, Chairman of Chennai’s Dr Rela Institute and Medical Centre told NDTV that Chennai will not face the issue of lack of beds and also highlighted an important point, similar to what Dr Deshmukh from KEM Hospital said, he said,
In my opinion, Chennai ideally shouldn’t face the scarcity of beds for isolation. The city has roped in a lot of private hospitals and medical colleges, so it has about 30,000 isolation beds available. However, the real problem arises when people have specific preferences on what hospital they want to visit for their treatments. This can lead to hospitals getting overwhelmed with patients, making it difficult for us to cope with the situation.
Dr Anjan Trikha from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, who has been handling the COVID-19 response team at the hospital agreed with Dr Rela and said,
We have faced a similar situation in AIIMS, Delhi, where everybody wants to be treated in AIIMS. I would like to urge everyone to please visit the nearest hospital for COVID-19 treatment, and go to other hospitals only when the case is absolutely critical.
Dr Trikha further highlighted that everyone is discussing the lack of beds but not enough people are talking about the lack of healthcare workers for COVID patients. He said,
We don’t only need isolation beds, ICU beds, PPE kits, but we also need more healthcare workers. We need healthcare workers to take care of other patients, COVID-19 patients and we need more caretakers for the critically-ill patients, both COVID and non-COVID.
Delhi and Tamil Nadu have been reporting almost 2,000 new cases each for the last few days now, while Maharashtra has now begun to report between 3,000 and 3,500 cases every day, as per the Ministry of Health and Daily Welfare data.