Thane: Thane’s fight against the coronavirus has run into a massive wall — lack of hospital beds with oxygen and ventilators, data shows.
Government data accessed by ThePrint has shown that the city saw 11,214 Covid-19 cases till 4 July, with an increase of 451 cases every day since 2 July. But Thane, located just outside Mumbai, has only 293 ICU beds and 568 non-ICU beds.
The city also has just a total of 1,036 beds with oxygen facilities. Of these, 486 are occupied and 150 are not functional across all 17 designated Covid hospitals.
As many as 397 patients have died so far.
Thane, at present, has over 1,100 symptomatic patients who may at any point need beds with oxygen, the data notes.
Sandeep Malvi, Deputy Commissioner of Thane Municipal Corporation, however, said the situation was under control as most patients needed only isolation at the Covid care centres, while also acknowledging that there was “need for more infrastructure”.
“Currently, we have facilities to isolate people where they are given proper care. If they need oxygen, we then shift them to the dedicated Covid-19 hospitals. Till now, it has been going smooth. We, however, realise that we would need more beds as cases of infection rise and are working on developing more infrastructure,” Malvi told ThePrint.
He added, “We have a new 1,024-bed hospital in Thane to address the issue.”
Beds equipped with oxygen play a key role in giving support to Covid-19 patients and avoid a situation where they might need ventilators.
Speaking to ThePrint, Dr S. Chatterjee, consultant, Internal Medicine at Apollo in Delhi, said, “Lack of oxygen beds is a worrying sign. Almost 20 per cent of the patients (which is a huge number considering the number of infected people) need oxygen since the virus attacks the lungs and one has to be ready.”
Thane, a satellite town of India’s financial capital, is part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and has emerged as one of the worst-affected cities. It has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases among all eight satellite towns of Mumbai.
The city recorded 3,271 Covid-19 cases until 1 June, but the numbers increased more than three times to reach 11,214 by 4 July.
Oxygen beds most important
According to the government data, the percentage of hospitalised patients on a ventilator has been steady at 1-2 per cent, while 3-4 per cent need intensive care. Most of them, however, need oxygen.
An oxygen bed needs one of the three things — a piped oxygen supply, an oxygen concentrator or an oxygen cylinder.
One of the defining parameters of whether a patient needs to be hospitalised or should only be isolated at a Covid care centre is the oxygen saturation levels in her or his blood.
Oxygen saturation is the measure of the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. If it falls below a certain level for prolonged periods, there are risks of organ damage, sometimes irreversibly.
“Oxygen is most important when it comes to Covid patients as that is what most patients admitted to the hospital for treatment require. It is only after their condition worsens that they are put on a ventilator, but that can be avoided if there are oxygen beds available,” Dr Chatterjee added.
Dr Yogesh Sharma, who is heading operations of the new Thane Covid hospital, said the city was prepared to take the load.
“There certainly was a problem, but now with a 1,024-bed hospital in Thane, including 394 oxygen beds, we are ready. The number of cases are increasing and it is certainly a challenge, but with this new Thane hospital, now operational, we are prepared,” Sharma told ThePrint.
ICU and ventilator shortage
The government data also shows that ICU beds are in shortage. Thane has 293 ICU beds, of which 205 are occupied and only 70 are available at present.
Dr Sharma, however, said, “The new Thane Covid hospital has additional 76 ICU beds and can take the load of rising number of cases.”
The number of available ventilators is equally worrying — of the available 79, 53 are occupied and only 26 are vacant.
Although only 3 to 5 per cent of cases need ventilation, in Thane, the condition of patients seems to have worsened due to lack of oxygen beds.
“It is true that not many patients need ventilators, but in the past few days we have received cases which were high risk, having breathing troubles and we did not want to take a chance. We are, however, not facing any crunch as we still have over 26 ventilators that are vacant,” Malvi said.
Most patients above 40 years of age
According to the government data, 56.4 per cent of the patients in Thane are above 40 years of age, and most have comorbidities. The data also notes that the city has 53 patients on ventilator support.
“The patients who are above 60 years and with co-morbidities definitely need more care. They are the more challenging ones as there is a greater chance of them becoming high- risk patients,” Dr Santosh Kadam, who is part of the Covid task force in Thane, told ThePrint.
“In Thane, however, we have been able to provide facilities to the ones with these conditions. Patients who are above 40 have a good recovery rate. Also, with the Thane hospital coming up, it will become easier to accommodate patients who need the most care,” he added.
Infrastructure ready but no staff
The new Thane Covid hospital, with 1,024 beds, was inaugurated on 17 June and 575 patients are already being treated in the facility.
The hospital, located at the Global Impact Hub, includes 394 oxygen beds, 10 dialysis beds, 10 emergency beds, 76 ICU beds and 576 non-oxygen beds for low-risk patients with mild symptoms.
There is also a quarantine facility for on-duty doctors.
“This hospital will definitely take the load as cases grow in the region. The facility has become operational and there are 575 patients already admitted,” a senior doctor at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
When asked if the hospital is expected to fill up soon, the doctor said, “If we are admitting people, a lot of them are also being discharged. Most cases are those with mild symptoms, who are discharged early on. Most are advised home quarantine. Only the high-risk patients, or the ones with clear symptoms are admitted and the current infrastructure is sufficient.”
Although the infrastructure is ready, the facility doesn’t have enough staff to run it. The Thane Municipal Corporation has been trying to recruit people, with two recruitment drives carried out already, but has failed to enlist enough staff.
It has now approached the Indian Medical Association and private doctor associations for support.
“We are doing the recruitment and also offering competitive prices to staff and doctors. The process is on,” Malvi said.