It has been a long wait for patients -- both COVID-19 and non COVID-19 -- to get medical care at hospitals in Mumbai. With the number of coronavirus cases rising fast across the city, the public health infrastructure in Mumbai has not been able to keep pace with patient arrivals.
Sixty five-year-old Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, who lives in Mumbai’s central eastern suburbs of Mankhurd, was complaining of difficulty in breathing. He was running a temperature and suspecting that he was COVID-19 positive, his family rushed him to KEM hospital in Parel. While there were a few BMC hospitals like the one in Sion en route, Khan’s family said they felt KEM would be able to accommodate them.
But it was an agonising three-day wait at the hospital's premises before Khan was moved to the corridors for treatment. This, after his COVID-19 test came positive.
“My father is diabetic and that’s why we are worrying. His treatment has not started as yet,” said his son Aroon Khan.
Aroon told CNBC-TV18 that his family believes KEM will be able to treat his father.
Next to Khan, under a banyan tree at the hospital premise was a 19-year-old from Naigaon. He had tested positive for COVID-19, but was asymptomatic and was asked to wait outside. When CNBC-TV18 met him, he said that he had been waiting under the tree for two days with his clothes and essentials in two small bags.
Public hospitals in Parel like KEM have been at the forefront of the coronavirus battle.
Despite KEM expanding its COVID-19 dedicated capacity to nearly 700 beds, of which 360 are critical care beds, the influx of patients has led authorities to ask patients to wait in the hospital compound.
Pandurang Kadam, another person who was resting on a cardboard, said that he came with his wife and son, both of whom had tested positive for the virus. They had approached six hospitals on their way from Vikhroli to get a bed for their son first, who had a severe stomach ache along with other signs of COVID-19. “None had beds free, so we came to KEM. Even here we waited for two days, got some treatment in the casualty and after two days my wife and son got admitted in the ward. I know doctors are doing their best,” Kadam said.
The spike in cases in Mumbai has put hospitals in a tough spot. KEM and other dedicated COVID-19 hospitals are running at maximum capacity. Despite best efforts from doctors and nurses, patients are being asked to wait due to beds being occupied.
City doctors said that the number of critical patients coming with influenza-like symptoms or acute respiratory distress have gone up significantly and hence the dynamics of treatment has changed. “The turnaround time of patients has gone up significantly and hence bed capacity on offer at any given time gets reduced,” a resident doctor at Sion Hospital said.
The influx of patients and limited beds have led to a scenario where doctors need to take a call on which patient they must admit first, which depends on the severity of the infection. A decision also needs to be taken on suspected patients as they need to wait for their test before they -- based on their symptoms -- are moved inside as patients recover and beds get empty.
The situation is similar at Sion, Kasturba, St Geroge and Cama hospitals. Almost all private hospitals with COVID-19 wards like Jaslok, Hinduja, Wockhardt, Nanavati among others have all said that their beds are completely occupied.
Ramping up bed capacity in Mumbai
In a press briefing on May 26, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Chief Iqbal Singh Chahal said the city has built infrastructure of nearly 10,000 beds in DCH & DCHC. By May 31, it will be expanded to 14,000 beds. A single portal will collate data on all beds in both govt and private hospitals.
A live dashboard will also update the usage and availability of beds across the city. These arrangements were made as patients were made to run from one hospital to another in search of beds. A helpline no 1916 will be used for checking bed availability and directing patients to hospitals that have vacant beds.
According to data as of May 22, 5,392 patients (of total 21,158 active cases) were on beds at dedicated COVID-19 hospitals and health centres, as of May 22. Of these 583 were in ICU and 198 on ventilator.
To deal with the shortage of beds, the BMC has setting up massive facilities at Bandra Kurla Complex, Dahisar, Mulund, NESCO Grounds in Goregaon and Mahalaxmi Race Course. These 5 facilities have added 5,400 isolation beds, 1,200 oxygen supported beds, 600 ICU beds and 180 beds with ventilator support.
The NESCO facility in Goregaon is the largest so far with nearly 2,500 beds in total. CM Uddhav Thackeray said, “COVID care centres and dedicated hospitals are being created at the Race Course, Dahisar, Goregaon, Mulund with over 7,000 beds and should be operational in the coming two weeks. By May 31, a total of 2,475 beds at NSCI Worli, Mahalaxmi, Bandra, NESCO, Goregaon, will be made available.”
The state health ministry has ordered all private hospitals to reserve 80 percent beds, which will be regulated by BMC for COVID and non-COVID patients.