Mumbai’s civic body has directed its ward offices to take over all available hospital beds in private hospitals and nursing homes for better management of resources amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) took the decision after observing that private hospitals were admitting Covid patients without informing the civic agency, despite orders.
Authorities fear Mumbai could start recording 10,000 cases daily at this rate. In such a scenario, 2,000 patients will require hospitalisation every day. Looking at this projection of the worst-case scenario, BMC will soon increase its bed capacity to 21,000 from the existing 13,773 to manage the surge. The order said 80 per cent of the total beds and 100 per cent of ICU beds in private hospitals will be kept reserved only for allotment through the ward war rooms for coronavirus patients. Also, asymptomatic patients without comorbidity will not be allotted a hospital bed. This will help in keeping beds available for Covid patients who require hospitalisation.
The sudden surge of the pandemic has led to a scarcity of beds. And as Covid-19 cases are seeing a steady rise in Mumbai, authorities are working towards ramping up health facilities to ensure a situation like last year doesn’t arise.
In February, the occupied-to-vacant ratio of Covid-dedicated beds with the BMC was 25:75. But that scale has now reversed. Also, some of the big Covid-dedicated facilities like SevenHills Hospital and the jumbo Covid centre in the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) with over 1,000 beds are nearing full capacity. The BMC’s Cooper Hospital too has increased its capacity to 288 beds to meet the growing demand.
Dr Rajesh Dere, dean of the jumbo Covid facility at BKC, says, “Undoubtedly there is pressure. We had 70 per cent beds free like a month back. Today, it’s the opposite; only 40 per cent are vacant. But we have another 800 beds that can be activated in case of need and when we get the go-ahead from higher authorities… we have more asymptomatic patients and fewer requiring critical care… Mumbai has for the longest time-controlled its death rate and we are in the process of recruiting more people in a phased manner.”
The spread of infection is not limited to high-rises alone. Slum clusters like Dharavi are also witnessing a steady jump in cases. Staring at a crisis, the BMC is also reactivating hotels, halls and civic buildings as quarantine centres, just like it did last year. “We have increased institutional quarantine facility. For example, our Vanita Samajh quarantine centre. In January we were about to close it as cases had declined. But now this quarantine centre with 300 beds is also full. We have taken one hotel and a few lodges in Dharavi for quarantine centres. The last time we had schools for help but since there will be exams of class 10 and 12 we can touch schools and are depending on other places,” says Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner, G North Ward.