Kolkata: As Covid-19 cases spiral in West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government has begun converting stadiums, lodges, schools, academies and night shelters in districts into makeshift hospitals to accommodate patients.
According to the government’s health and family welfare website, of the 80 hospitals in the state designated for Covid care, at least seven are on unconventional premises. This number is likely to increase in the coming days.
The website details that the state has 10,840 Covid beds in government establishments or government-requisitioned premises. Of these, the state claims 7,929 are unoccupied as of 11 July.
Around 730 of the beds are in different stadiums, lodges, schools and night shelters. Of these 730 beds, 673 are still vacant according to the list uploaded on 11 July.
As of 11 July, the state has recorded almost 29,000 positive cases with the death toll at 906. The discharge rate, however, has fallen from 66.48 per cent on 5 July to 63.13 per cent on 11 July.
Over the past week, the number of tests has remained between 10,000 and 11,000 per day. The state has in all conducted 5.94 lakh tests as of Sunday.
The situation has also prompted private healthcare facilities to open up satellite units in the districts.
Govt lists schools, lodges, stadiums as Covid hospitals
With West Bengal steadily marching towards its peak, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the health minister of the state, has been struggling to accommodate patients.
The state has converted the Biswa Bangla Krirangan (sports complex) in Jalpaiguri into a 200-bed Covid hospital, where 177 beds are unoccupied as of Sunday.
In Birbhum, the state has requisitioned a lodge, Madhumamata, which has 150 beds vacant.
In South 24 Parganas, the district stadium is listed as a Canning Covid Hospital with 55 beds, of which 36 are unoccupied. In North Dinajpur, the Islampur Urdu Academy has been converted into a 100-bed Covid hospital, but there are only five patients there at present.
The Jhargram night shelter has been converted into a 75-bed Covid hospital, where all beds are vacant. In Malda, the Manichak Model School is now a Covid hospital with 50 beds, of which 40 are unoccupied.
Of these districts, the caseload is particularly very high in Malda (1,096) and South 24 Pargana (2,067).
An analysis of the government’s hospital list also reveals that a majority of the total 10,840 beds are lying vacant in small private nursing homes requisitioned by the state across districts.
“For Covid beds, we need to install some machines including oxygen cylinders, proper monitoring and we must have doctors and nurses. This will take time,” said a senior health ministry official, who did not want to be named. “The health infrastructure is under huge stress and we are working on it. The Covid-19 set up is not of a satisfactory level as of now.”
Meanwhile, the government has also used schools and office spaces as quarantine facilities in the districts. In addition, the iconic Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata is set to be turned into a makeshift quarantine facility for Kolkata Police personnel.
Satellite facilities running full
Of 33 private hospitals treating Covid patients in the state, four major ones have opened satellite facilities in the city, and all these are fully occupied now.
The number of Covid beds in these hospitals were increased to 1,543 from the initial 1,100 beds. Of the 1,543 beds, only 200 are now available across hospitals as on 11 July.
“The space will shrink further as the numbers are now bound to go up,” said a senior doctor working with a private Covid hospital. “The worrying part is the sliding discharge rate. The discharge rate dropped from 66 per cent to 63 per cent. This means patients are taking more time to recover and retention of Covid beds are naturally long. This creates more stress on the infrastructure.”
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