Prabhu Prasad (name changed), 41, tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Since then, he and his wife, who also tested positive, had been isolating themselves at home.
On Wednesday morning, when Mr. Prasad’s oxygen saturation levels were dropping, he contacted the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) control room seeking a bed in a hospital. After several calls, he was sent an ambulance and asked to go to a private hospital in south Bengaluru.
He was in for a shock when he reached the hospital, oxygen cylinder in tow. He was told that there had been “a mistake” and no beds were available. Mr. Prasad had to wait in the lobby of the hospital for nearly two hours after which the hospital authorities asked him to wait outside in the ambulance.
He was eventually allotted a bed at another private hospital in the opposite end of the city. But his troubles did not end there. He was told by these hospital authorities that he had to have an attendant with him. With his wife also under home isolation and both his children very young, he had no one to turn to.
There have been instances of patients dying while waiting for a bed.
With the number of positive cases increasing in the city, citizens are struggling to find beds in hospitals. The BBMP administration has admitted that High Dependency Unit (HDU) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are limited, though the number of beds with oxygen had been increased. There is not yet a transparent system to track the number of beds available in private hospitals.
The civic body has also been cracking down on private laboratories that have not been uploading COVID-19 test results on the Indian Council of Medical Research portal. So far, six private labs have been shut down.
Though 79-year-old K. Chandrappa underwent RAT (rapid antigen test) and tested positive on April 16, the private hospital lab had not uploaded the test result or issued a Specimen Referral Form (SRF) ID to him. His daughter found this out the hard way on Wednesday when she scrambled to find him a hospital as his oxygen saturation levels fell.
“The lab has been highly irresponsible. Without SRF ID, the BU (Bengaluru Urban) ID cannot be generated. Both of these are important for seeking any COVID-19 related service, be it ambulance or beds,” said Divya C., a teacher and Mr. Chandrappa’s daughter.
It was after threatening to file a case against the hospital that Mr. Chandrappa’s SRF ID was created, a good 12 days after his test. Soon after the ID was created and the test result uploaded, Ms. Divya received calls from the BBMP war room, seeking details on her father’s health condition.