Representational image. A patient on a ventilator machine. | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
Representational image. A patient on a ventilator machine. | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
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New Delhi: Hospitals in Delhi are fast running out of ventilator beds even as Covid cases are rising. According to the Delhi government’s Delhi Corona app, only 37 per cent of the total ventilator beds were vacant as of 24 September, and of the total 98 hospitals offering ventilator beds, 49 hospitals are already out of ventilators.

The Arvind Kejriwal government had earlier this month issued an order reserving 80 per cent ICU beds in 33 private hospitals for Covid patients. The order was, however, challenged in the Delhi High Court, with the private hospitals claiming in a petition that this would affect treatment of non-Covid patients. The HC temporarily stayed the order Tuesday, saying the decision appeared to be arbitrary and unreasonable.

On Wednesday, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said there is a shortage of ICU beds in Delhi amid rising cases. The Delhi government is learnt to have challenged the HC stay.

ThePrint reached Delhi government’s Director General of Health Services Nutan Mundeja for a comment, but she refused saying the matter is still sub judice. 

However, private hospitals told ThePrint that reserving 80 per cent ICU beds is difficult despite the rise in cases, and will affect treatment of non-Covid patients. They also said government hospitals should increase ICU capacity first instead of putting the onus on private hospitals.

As of Friday, Delhi has recorded 2,60,623 Covid cases, including 5,123 deaths and 2,24,375 recoveries. There are 31,125 active cases in the city.


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Ventilator beds almost full

According to the Delhi Corona app, 825 of the 1,310 ventilator beds available in Delhi, or 62.9 per cent, are already occupied as of 24 September. Only 485 ventilators, or 37 per cent, are vacant.

Delhi has a total of 98 hospitals offering ventilator beds. Of these, 82 are private hospitals, five are run by the Delhi government, and 11 are run by the central government.

Of these 98, ventilator beds in 70 hospitals are either already occupied or running nearly full capacity. There are no ventilator beds available in 48 private hospitals including big hospitals such as Indraprastha Apollo, Saroj Superspeciality Hospital, Fortis Vasant Kunj, Max Shalimar Bagh, Max Patparganj and Max Super Speciality Saket (East & West Block). 

One of the five Delhi government hospitals, Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital is also out of ventilator beds. The government’s biggest Covid facility, the Lok Nayak Jayprakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital, has only 58 of the total 200 ventilators vacant. 

While none of the central government-run hospitals are at full capacity, several are running out of ventilators. Only eight ventilator beds at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and three each in Ram Manohar Lohia and Safdarjung hospitals are vacant. 

In addition, 22 private hospitals including Maharaja Agrasen Multispeciality Hospital and Cygnus MLS Superspecility Hospital are running almost at full capacity.


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‘Where will non-Covid patients go?’

Private hospitals said the Delhi government could challenge the HC stay on the 13 September order, but reserving 80 per cent ICU beds for Covid patients would still be next to impossible.

“We already have around 120 Covid ICU beds. If we reserve beds further, where will non-Covid patients go? There’s already a bed crunch and we are already facing difficulties. It will not be possible to get more ventilators and reserve more ICU beds,” said Dr S.P. Byotra, chairman, department of medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Hospitals also said ICU beds are difficult to get even for non-Covid patients at this time of the year.

“This is the season of infectious diseases. People come with dengue, malaria, and other infectious diseases. Not to forget emergency patients or those who suffer heart attacks etc. Because of Covid, we have already reserved beds and non-Covid patients are already finding it difficult to find beds,” said Dr S. Chatterjee, internal medicine specialist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

Earlier this month, ThePrint had reported that while private hospitals are running out of ventilator beds, government hospitals have enough ventilator capacity. But now even government hospitals are running out of ventilator beds.

Doctors said government hospitals are filling up because private hospitals are full.

“Ventilator beds in private hospitals are almost full capacity so patients are coming to government hospitals now. We have been seeing a rise in ventilator bed occupancy since the beginning of this month. But the non-ventilator beds are empty as only serious cases are coming for hospitalisation and the rest are being advised home isolation,” said Dr Ritu Saxena, chief medical officer, LNJP Hospital.

However, private hospitals claimed that the maximum burden of the pandemic must be borne by the government hospitals first, instead of putting the onus on the private sector. 

“People are coming to private hospitals because they aren’t getting the facilities at government hospitals. There should be equal distribution between government and private hospitals,” said Chatterjee.


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‘Increase ICU beds in government hospitals’

Girdhar Gyani, director general, Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI), said the Delhi government order amounts to blocking the best hospitals in the country.

“These private hospitals like Apollo or Max are not just among the best hospitals in Delhi but also in the country. You are making the best hospitals in the country unavailable for transplant patients, heart attack patients, stroke patients and other emergency procedures,” said Gyani.

The Delhi HC stayed the government order on Gyani’s petition.

“Only 1.7% of the patients need ventilators, and for that Delhi is already well equipped. Because Covid deaths are increasing, they are taking a one-sided approach. But what about non-Covid deaths?” Gyani asked.

The AHPI chief said instead of blocking these tertiary care hospitals, the government should identify some secondary hospitals and convert them into complete Covid facilities.

“Ideally some secondary care hospitals need to be identified and converted fully into Covid hospitals. The government’s responsibility is the first in a pandemic. So why aren’t they increasing beds in government hospitals?”


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