With the second COVID-19 wave raging across the country over the past few weeks, the availability of hospital beds for severely affected patients is now a major concern in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with the number of fatalities rising on a daily basis.
According to the latest official figures, Telangana reported 6,206 new COVID-19 cases in the 24-hour period ending at 8 pm on Thursday, the highest-ever single-day cases reported in the state. During the period, 29 people succumbed to the novel coronavirus taking the state's total death toll to 1,928. There are 52,726 active cases in the state and 3.24 lakh people have recovered from the infection so far,
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has been reporting the highest number of cases (10,001 cases on April 22) followed by Medchal–Malkajgiri, Rangareddy and Mahabubnagar districts in Telangana.
Andhra Pradesh crossed one million cases on Friday. Four out of its 13 districts have been reporting over 10,000 COVID-19 cases on a daily basis, indicating a sharp rise in infections.
While both the states have recently put out live dashboards of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, in Telangana’s Hyderabad, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in government hospitals are almost filled up with severely ill patients. More than half of total quota of oxygen beds is also full amid a rise in cases, as per local media reports. The situation is similar in private and corporate hospitals as almost all the allocated COVID-19 beds are filled up. For instance, Telugu Daily Eenadu reported that a private hospital in Hyderabad’s Gachibowli has admitted 50 COVID-19 patients more than what its actual capacity was.
Preparedness of the States
In Andhra Pradesh nearly half of COVID-19 beds, including ICU beds, Oxygen beds and general beds across 206 hospitals in 13 districts in the state, have already been filled with patients, as per official data on the availability of hospital beds in Andhra Pradesh. While the state health minister A.K.K. Srinivas said that the government is planning to double the number of beds in government hospitals, The News Minute reported that there were discrepancies in the number of available beds compared to the data on the official dashboard portal.
For instance, according to the report, “for Nandyal district hospital in Kurnool district, the dashboard showed a total of 74 oxygen beds in the hospital, of which 12 were occupied and 62 available on Wednesday afternoon. However, hospital authorities said that there were a total of 50 oxygen beds allocated for COVID-19 patients at the time, of which 12 were occupied and 38 were available.”
While addressing a press conference on Thursday, Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender said that the Centre had allocated an inadequate number of Remdesivir vials and Oxygen cylinders to Telangana as compared to other states such as Gujarat. Reportedly, only 8,545 injections of Remdesivir 100mg were left with government and medical stores as of Thursday evening, while government hospitals alone have been using 1,000 injections per day. The state government has also deployed two aircrafts to airlift Oxygen cylinders to overcome shortage.
In Andhra Pradesh, with the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant being the key supplier of Oxygen since last year, there has been no shortage of supply, but scarcity of Remdesivir injections has been reported. On April 22, Visakhapatnam Police arrested several employees of private hospitals for selling Remdesivir injections in the black market at inflated rates. Similar cases are being reported across districts in both the Telugu States.
Given the preparedness of the two states as mentioned above, if the COVID-19 case graph continues to rise at the same pace, health systems may become overwhelmed in the upcoming days.
Despite directions from state governments with regard to charges for testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients in private and corporate hospitals, multiple instances where health facilities charged patients at inflated rates were being reported across the two states. On Thursday, while hearing a plea on inflated charges at private hospitals, the Andhra Pradesh High Court asked the state government to file a counter explaining the action taken by the state government against such facilities.
In Telangana, as on April 22, a total of 31,59,780 persons have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine out of which 2,38,182 were healthcare workers, 2,21,275 were frontline workers and 27,00,323 were individuals above 45 years of age. In Andhra, as on Thursday, over 50.32 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to the people.