NEW DELHI: Delhi is battling a surge in Covid-19 cases and there are numerous accounts of people being sent from one hospital to another in search of that elusive bed. This, when seven out of every 10 beds reserved for Covid-19 patients in Delhi government hospitals are lying vacant.
Doctors and public health experts believe this is an outcome of the general perception that government hospitals may not have good infrastructure and hygiene and shortage of staff could lead to patients being neglected.
The Delhi government has reserved 4,360 beds in six hospitals, namely Lok Nayak (2,000), Guru Tegh Bahadur (1,500), Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty (500), Deep Chand Bandhu (176), Raja Harish Chandra (168) and Jag Pravesh Chandra (16), according to real-time data shared on the Delhi Corona app Of these, as on Wednesday, 61% beds were vacant in Lok Nayak Hospital, which is the largest health facility run by the state. Guru Tegh Bahadur (89%), Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality (49%), Deep Chand Bandhu (53%), Raja Harish Chandra (87%) and Jag Pravesh Chandra (100%) too had enough beds to accommodate the rising number of cases.
Hospitals run by the Centre have 1,470 Covid-19 beds. Of these, 84% were occupied on Wednesday. Lady Hardinge Medical College had no vacant beds while Ram Manohar Lohia, Safdarjung, AIIMS-Delhi and AIIMS-Jhajjar had 2, 6, 63 and 164 beds available, respectively.
There are 3,349 beds in private hospitals — excluding the 2,000 that are to be added according to the Delhi government’s order on Tuesday — and only 29% beds were vacant. So, despite a total of over 9,000 beds being available for Covid-19 patients in the city, there is a sense of crisis. Lawyer and public health activist Ashok Agarwal says people do not want to go to government hospitals for reasons of infrastructure and hygiene.
"I come across patients who are willing to wait to get a bed in a private hospital but don’t want to get admitted to agovernment hospital because they feel that the care offered to them there won’t be good enough," he said. Agarwal pointed out that unlike private hospitals, most government hospitals do not have single rooms. Also, patients baulk at the thought of having to share the toilet with many others.
"Sanitation and lack of hygiene are definitely serious concerns," said a senior doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital. "Government hospitals have a common bathroom. Patients are admitted mostly in the general ward which have eight to 10 patients in one hall," he added.
This, he said, was despite the fact that medical and surgical interventions at the government hospitals were often better or on a par with private facilities. Asenior doctor of a government hospital was recently quoted as saying that patients can indeed feel neglected without an attendant and when the staff, in the current circumstances, are themselves scared. State-run hospitals are also plagued by staff shortage because of which some also choose to make admissions cautiously, sources said.
"We have 500 Covid beds but we cannot operate at 100% capacity with the current strength," said a doctor at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in east Delhi, which is run by the Delhi government. "Our hospital is facing an acute shortage of staff and the issue has been raised with the government several times."
At Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, where 89% beds are vacant, an official said they were designated for Covid treatment recently and the number would go up in the coming days. AIIMS director Randeep Guleria says government hospitals have to improve infrastructure to win people’s trust. Covid facilities need centralised oxygen supply and an adequate number of ventilators.
"We are managing Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms at the trauma facility while those with mild symptoms are being treated at the Jhajjar facility," he said. Dr S K Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, however, feels there is a misconception among people about government hospitals, which needs to change.