Bengal to start 'satellite health centres' to free up hospital beds for critically...

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Kolkata: The West Bengal government is tying up with private hospitals in Kolkata in a first-of-its-kind innovative bid called Satellite Health Facilities (SHFs), a variant of observation wards in healthcare units’ vicinity, where coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients with mild or no symptoms will be treated, while setting aside the beds in the dedicated hospitals for critically-ill patients.

The initiative aims to free up hospital beds primarily in urban areas such as Kolkata, where there has been a daily spike of 150 Covid-19 positive cases amid an acute shortage of beds.

“Perhaps, this is a one-of-its-kind concept that is being launched in Bengal. At least three big private hospitals have approached us, and more will be encouraged,” said a state health official.

SHFs will be an annexe facility, which will function as “observation wards” close to the hospitals’ main premises.

Patients, who are admitted to SHFs, will be regularly checked by hospital doctors and all Covid-19 protocols will be followed. If the condition of any patient admitted to an SHF worsens, then that person will be admitted to the adjoining dedicated Covid-19 care centre.

These SHFs will run as non-profit facilities. Hospitals are only entitled to charge room rent, doctors’ consultation and nurses’ fees and incidental expenses from patients.

As of now, SHFs are a three-month interim arrangement, which can be extended depending on how the viral outbreak pans out in the state.

Earlier this week, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that the state is coming up with 104 “safe home centres” (SHCs) in Kolkata with a capacity of over 6,000 beds, where mild and asymptomatic patients could be treated. Doctors would visit the safe homes once or twice a week for check-ups.

“Both these arrangements – SHFs and SHCs – are being launched for the first time in India in a bid to keep hospital beds free for critically ill Covid-19 patients amid a daily spike in the number of positive cases,” the official said.

Bengal has 77 designated Covid-19 hospitals across the state with a cumulative capacity of 10,317 beds. Private hospitals are also treating Covid-19 patients.

“There is immense pressure on Kolkata, as compared to the rest of the state as far as hospital beds are concerned. At present, around 45% of Covid-19 beds are lying vacant in Kolkata, as compared to 80% in other parts of the state. But, in some Kolkata-based hospitals, less than 10% of the beds are unoccupied,” said an official.

Kolkata has reported 4,269 Covid-19 cases until Thursday, and an average daily spike of around 150 this week.

Besides, Kolkata has accounted for 279, or over 60%, of the Covid-19 related deaths in Bengal to date.

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