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Eight Months Into the Coronavirus Pandemic, Access to ICU Beds Still a Tall Order

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

A total of 17,000 responses have been received. Of all the patients contacted, 38% said they had to use clout or connections to get an ICU bed. About 7% said they had to follow up extensively to secure an ICU bed. Roughly 7% even paid a bribe to get a bed.

Even as state governments have claimed that hospital infrastructure and facilities are being created to meet the increased demand of Covid-19 patients in the country eight months into the fight against coronavirus, a survey has shown that getting a bed for a patient who needs ICU support his only getting difficult.

Independent estimates show that by the middle of October, India will surpass the US in terms of the total number of Covid-19 cases. The government of India says that 92 % of cases of Covid-19 in India are mild in nature.

Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Union Health Ministry, said currently a little over 6% of Covid-19 patients in the country were on oxygen support in hospitals. This included 3.69% patients on oxygen support; 2.17% patients on ICU beds with oxygen support and 0.36% patients on ventilator support.​

However, this offers little solace given that patients have had to use their 'connections' or 'contacts' to get a bed, a survey conducted by LocalCircles showed.

As many as 211 districts have been covered by this survey in which 17,000 responses were received. Of all the patients contacted, 38% said they had to use clout or connections to get an ICU bed. About 7% said they had to follow up extensively to secure an ICU bed. Roughly 7% even paid a bribe to get a bed, while only 4% faced no problems. Another 4% did not get a bed at all. Some also said they had to follow up and raise this matter via social media to get the attention of the authorities.

Of the respondents, 92% said that it should be mandatory for hospitals to post and upgrade real time Covid-19 ICU bed availability. For instance, patients complained that the Delhi Government’s app Delhi Corona shows that ICU beds are available in some hospitals, however, when they call, they are told the beds are not available.

The Delhi government said that over 500 beds have been added in the last few days. The number of Covid-19 ICU beds available at the time of filing this report was 493 with ventilators. As many as 492 ICU beds without ventilators were vacant.

first published:September 21, 2020, 17:15 IST