As the Covid-19 cases cross 1 lakh-mark in Pune, the health condition of Vijay Kumar Kulkarni, a Covid-positive patient, is worsening day by day at Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital. The 69 years old retired principal needs a ventilator, but his family is unable to find one across Pune. Kulkarni’s one kidney was removed in the past and he has blood pressure-related problems and diabetes. Moreover, he got jaundice and his platelet count is also low.
Mayur Bhumkar, Kulkarni’s nephew, is tired of listening to ‘no’ from hospitals. “He tested Covid19 positive on April 10. Luckily we could get an oxygen bed at the Mangeshkar Hospital, 25 km away from his home. His oxygen level is at 92-93. Doctors have advised us for ventilator bed,” Bhumkar said.
The dashboards at the websites of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pune Divisional Commissioner showcase the availability of isolation beds, oxygen beds, ventilator beds, ICU beds, and ICU plus ventilator beds. Bhumkar, based on information available at these websites, called over 50 hospitals and personally visited more than 12 to only learn that no ventilator bed was available.
Bhumkar said, “I first called the Covid-19 call centre of PMC to check whether I get ventilator beds at government facilities. They have taken down my details and will let me know as soon as the ventilators are available. And later, I tried at many private hospitals.”
Active Covid Cases Rise Over One Lakh in Pune
Kulkarni is not alone in his struggle. Hundreds of Covid-19 patients are struggling to get beds in the Pune district. Pune has the highest number of Covid-19 cases across India. There were 1,09,590 active cases in Pune as of April 11, according to the Public Health Department of Maharashtra. Among these, 26,195 patients are undertaking treatment at the hospitals while 72,227 are in home isolation, as per the Zila Parishad of Pune.
The district has a total of 6,48,393 cases; 5,39,430 people have recovered and 10,618 have died till now, according to Saurabh Rao, divisional commissioner, Pune division.
The dashboards of PMC and PDC show information on several total beds, oxygen beds, ventilator beds, ICU and ICU+ ventilator beds and their availability on a particular day.
Data from the dashboard of Pune Divisional Commissionarate on April 12.
However, the number of patients who struggle to get beds or oxygen beds or ventilator or ICU beds is too high. There are total 424 Covid facilities in Pune including Covid Care Centers (CCC), Dedicated Covid Hospitals (DCH) and Dedicated Covid Health Centres (DCHC).
Labheshwar Gharat, 45, tested positive for Covid-19 On April 11. He said, “I have fever and throat pain. I am unable to gulp down anything due to pain. I am struggling to get a bed to get admitted to a hospital.” He added, “I called five hospitals and the PMC call center. But bed is not available anywhere. I am worried as I have my old mother at home. I don’t want her to get infected.”
“Two days after we tried to call , we got a bed at a hospital that is in Bhor, the town near Pune city. It's 70km away from Pune. But at least we got the bed,” said relatives of a Covid patient on the condition of anonymity.
Similarly, Parvati Baddade, 62, a Covid-19 patient who tested positive on April 11, is yet to get a bed. Amogh Nawale, her relative, said, “My aunt requires oxygen as she is struggling to breathe. Although the government dashboard showcases the availability of beds, no bed was available at seven-eight private hospitals that I called. Executives of the government call centre did not answer properly when I called them. It was as if they did not care. I had to call hospitals on my own.”
Relatives of other patients also complained that call centre numbers or hospital numbers were always busy. That frustrated the relatives who were already under stress to find beds.
Santosh Awdhut Thosar, 51, from Aundh in Pune, died on Sunday morning after being infected by the coronavirus as he did not get a bed. He was at home in isolation for a week. He started to have fever and breathing problems from Thursday onward. His family tried to admit him to the government hospitals but a bed was not available. The family refused to speak further.
Need to Update Dashboard Regularly
Pointing out the reasons behind the non-availability of the beds, Dr Abhijit More of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan said, “Many patients whose oxygen level is sufficient or who don’t have serious symptoms prefer to get admitted in private hospitals and that is unnecessary. That can be avoided. Many private hospitals have not availed beds for Covid-19 in the full capacity as they did not receive reimbursement of bills of earlier Covid-19 patients as promised by the government. If private hospitals avail all beds, this problem can be tackled well.’
He said the solution for this problem could be updating the government dashboards at regular intervals. “The government should update the dashboard regularly. And It should start Covid-19 care centres in government buildings and closed hospitals to treat asymptomatic patients.”
Rajesh Deshmukh, Pune district collector, did not respond to Newsclick’s calls, text messages, and email asking why beds were not available even through the dashboard showed otherwise.
Meanwhile, due to the increasing number of cases, the Pune administration had to impose strict measures to break the chain of infections. Currently, a curfew is imposed from 6 pm to 6 am and not more than five people can gather between 6 am and 6 pm. Malls, restaurants, bars, religious places, and cinema halls are closed. Only parcel and home delivery are allowed. Schools and colleges are also closed till April 16 when the decision for the next step will be taken.