Patna: It took more than 70 days for the Centre to provide 100 ventilators to Bihar to fight coronavirus pandemic. When there were only three COVID-19 positive cases in Bihar and one reported death, Bihar chief Minister Nitish Kumar had sought at least 100 ventilators from the Prime Minister during a video conference with states on April 2.
Finally, 100 ventilators reached Bihar on Sunday (June 7), as claimed by state health minister Mangal Pandey on Monday, when the number of COVID positive cases crossed 5,000 . As of Monday, Bihar had 5,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 31deaths reported.
However, these 100 ventilators are meant not only for COVID-19 dedicated government-run hospitals, as 40 of these will be installed at three COVID- dedicated hospitals and 60 will be for other purposes including 50 for Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in SKMCH in Muzaffarpur district and 10 for VIMS hospital at Pawapuri in Narmada district.
The Newly built PICU was inaugurated by Nitish Kumar two days ago to deal with AES or Acute Encephalitis Syndroe,
However, Pandey ,a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, said that the state government had purchased 30 ventilators from its own resources, of which 15 were installed at Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, a COVID-dedicated hospital .
Pandey said that with 100 ventilators provided by the Centre, now it will be easy to give proper treatment to critical COVID positive patients, adding that the state government had already initiated moves to buy more ventilators.
Till last month , as per state health department officials, three COVID-dedicated hospitals — turned into centres for treatment of COVID-19 cases — had only 50 ventilators. “The state requires more life support systems to deal with the spike in cases,” the official added.
The Narmada Medical College and Hospital in Patna, for instance, had 20 ventilators, Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College in Gaya had 18 ventilators and Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Bhagalpur district had 12 ventilators.
In early April, sensing poor infrastructure, Nitish Kumar had demanded 10 lakh N95 masks and five lakh personal protective equipment or PPE kits from the Centre for protection of doctors, nurses and other health staff. He has now made it clear that the state has received only 50,000 masks and 4,000 PPE kits so far.
The chief minister said he had sought at least 100 ventilators and 10,000 RNA extraction kits. But, the Centre failed to provide a single ventilator to Bihar in April and May.
According to health department data, the number of isolation wards has increased to 33,458 and the state has 2,20,000 PPE kits, 3,55,000 poly masks, 2,30,000 N 95 masks and 98,000 viral transport medium kits (VTMs) — used to collect samples for tests. There are plans to increase isolation wards to 40,000 soon, an official said.
Ironically, nearly a month after Nitish Kumar instructed officials to scale up testing to 10,000 per day, the present average daily testing is 3,000 to 4,000 samples.
Pandey said by June 20 the state will achieve its target of testing 10,000 samples per day because there will be testing facility centres in all districts by June 15.At present, COVID tests are being conducted at 28 centres in the state.
During the ongoing first phase of easing the country-wide lockdown, Bihar has witnessed a spike in positive cases. State health officials privately admit that the situation may turn alarming, as in Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat, if not handled with utmost urgency.
However, government officials have been attributing the spike in cases to the return of thousands of migrant workers to Bihar in the past three weeks. What has raised eyebrows is the fact that the government has been doing random testing of select migrant workers. There is no random testing of the local population.
Bihar health secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh said the sudden rise of coronavirus cases in the state was related to the arrival of a large number of migrant workers, who accounted for 72% of the total COVID positive cases.