The number of critical care beds in Delhi can go up by at least 650 if the Capital is able to assure a steady supply of oxygen at just three government hospitals — GTB hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Superspeciality hospital and AIIMS. This will be in addition to the 1,200 makeshift ICU beds that the government plans to set up, even as Delhi continues to report over 20,000 new coronavirus cases each day.
The uncertainty over oxygen has also forced several hospitals to restrict new admissions, which will also ease up once the supply is restored.
The critical care beds include ICUs, high dependency units (also seen as step-down ICUs) and high flow oxygen beds.
Delhi has added 116 ICU beds since Thursday, taking the total number of ICU beds to 5,020. However, only 44 were vacant on Friday night — the highest since April 18 — as per the government’s Delhi Corona app.
The biggest Delhi government-run hospital in trans-Yamuna region, GTB, had to reduce the number of beds allocated for Covid-19 from over 900 to 700 last week because of the oxygen crisis. “No hospital is designed to support critical patients on more than 90% of its beds; we are only admitting critical patients. So, we had to reduce the number of beds as our oxygen plant was running at full capacity. Yesterday, the hospital almost ran out of oxygen at night. We had to stop new admissions,” said a senior doctor from the hospital.
The hospital authorities said it can restore over 200 beds if they receive regular supply and additional staff. The Delhi government has allowed all its hospitals to hire doctors, nurses, and other staff, including those who have retired, to take care of critically ill patients. “There is hardly any trained staff left in Delhi; but we are trying to do whatever we can,” the doctor said.
Another Delhi government hospital in the same area, Rajiv Gandhi Superspeciality hospital, had to reduce the number of beds from 550 to 350 due to the uncertainty in oxygen supply. “We have just 100 doctors but we have previously run 550 beds with critical patients and we can do it again if we are assured supply of oxygen,” said a senior doctor at the hospital.
At AIIMS, the plan to convert non-Covid beds for the treatment of the viral infection has slowed down because of the uncertainty in oxygen supply.
“The number of non-Covid-19 patient coming in to the hospital has reduced drastically. So, we are trying to convert 200 to 250 beds into Covid wards. The availability of the oxygen is a big hindrance,” said a senior administrator from the hospital.
The Centre has allocated 490 MT of oxygen to Delhi, which has been demanding 700 MT
Dr Narin Sehgal, Delhi secretary of Association of Healthcare Providers (India) and medical director of Sehgal Neo hospital, said, “SOS calls are being raised by one hospital or the other every 30 minutes across Delhi… People are dying and you don’t give them oxygen?”