COVID patients scramble for beds in western Odisha

Bibek Meher’s search for a COVID bed for his father finally ended after 16 hours when he got one at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar.

On April 13, when his father’s oxygen level dipped at Kantabanji in Odisha’s Balangir district, he and his mother scrambled for a bed. He had to inquire at four hospitals during a 600-km restless travel in four western Odisha districts, with his father in an ambulance.

He could have easily availed a bed at a government hospital, but there was perhaps lack of centralised information regarding the availability of COVID-19 bed for public.

Though the struggle for hospital bed was not bad as it is in States like Delhi, Maharashtra or Chhattisgarh, confusion prevails among relatives of COVID-19 patients in western Odisha where spike in daily cases was higher than many coastal districts.

“I had found a bed for my father as the situation was not that bad five days ago. With situation rapidly deteriorating, I found many people being turned away here,” said Mr. Meher at the private hospital.

In western Odisha’s Sambalpur district, Newton Roy, a journalist, said his mother-in-law (65) was turned away at Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Burla, due to unavailability of bed on Monday. “Beds at all private hospitals are occupied. If condition of my mother-in-law worsens, we have no idea where to go,” said Mr. Roy.

Those who are fortunate to have availed beds in special COVID-19 hospitals in Bhubaneswar, are anxious too.

“I had taken admission in a government-sponsored private hospital in Bhubaneswar. No doctor or nurse turned up even after ten hours. Though my husband is 79-year-old and I am 74, I pleaded before hospital authorities to send us home,” said Sandhya Das, who is recuperating in home isolation. Their son Nishikant Das, who had flown from Hyderabad to take care of his ageing parents, tested positive too. “Private hospitals, where one expects better services, do not have bed,” said Mr. Das.

Disturbing reports were emanating from western Odisha. People were seen lying in hospital verandahs and inside car on hospital campus for accessing oxygen in Balangir. The situation in Sundargarh is equally horrifying. Patients were lying on hospital floors.

Odisha on Monday reported the highest-ever single-day figure, with 4,445 cases. It surpassed previous highest daily spike of 4,356 reported on September 26 last.

The Odisha government, however, said there was neither shortage of hospital beds nor oxygen.

As per official information available till Sunday, 1,576 patients were occupying beds, with 9,008 being the total number of general beds. It constituted 17.50% bed occupancy. Similarly, of 2,018 total beds in ICUs, 424 were occupied. Only 59 (7.54%) of 782 ventilators were in use.

“We are ramping up COVID-19 beds. The special hospitals, which were created last year, are being made functional. The bed strength will go up by four to five times,” said Niranjan Mishra, State Director of Public Health.

There are 11,381 active cases in seven out of 30 districts . Active cases in these western Odisha districts – Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Balangir, Nuapada and Kalahandi – constitute 46.32% of the State’s total active cases. Health experts said the situation was rapidly deteriorating in western pockets and its impact would soon be felt on the health infrastructure. Unless the State government immediately ramps up beds for COVID-19, there would be chaos, they pointed out.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 9:29:27 AM |

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