COVID-19 bed allotment scam: Reforms spearheaded by Tejasvi Surya draw flak

File photo of Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya   | Photo Credit: PERIASAMY M

Some of the reforms in the civic body’s bed allocation software that Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya announced on Monday has drawn flak from officials in the BBMP and health experts. Many were altered within a day when they failed to adapt to the ground reality.

Following the alleged bed allocation scam, which he exposed, the BJP MP on Monday announced implementation of four reforms, and promised to implement two more in the next four days.

It is the queue system where patients will be given a token that has received the most criticism. In an attempt to eliminate discretion and bring in transparency, Mr. Surya said that each type of bed – HDU, ICU, etc – will have a separate queue. If a patient’s condition deteriorates, he or she will be added to the relevant queue. He said this will be implemented in the next few days.

However, a strict queue system will create havoc and possibly even endanger people’s lives, argue civic officials and public health experts.

“Allocation has to also be assessed based on how critical a patient is and not just on when he or she gets a token. This is a subjective call by the doctor, based on several factors like age, oxygen saturation level, and co-morbidities. Who applied for a bed first cannot be the sole criteria for allotment. We are trying to work out a criteria based on these,” said a senior civic official, overseeing bed allotment in the city.

Some of the reforms Mr. Surya announced have already been altered. He announced that the window of a bed being blocked and a patient occupying it would be reduced from 10 to four hours to prevent misuse. BBMP sources said it has been restored to six hours.

“Our data shows that a significant chunk of people occupy beds in the fifth and sixth hours. This may be due to ambulances, especially those with oxygen, being hard to come by. We have set the window at six hours, but are ready to increase it by an hour or two if we find patients showing up late,” a senior official said.

The manual unblocking of bed allotment has not been completely removed from the software as claimed by Mr. Surya. Authorisation to do so is now restricted to the central control room. “There are many scenarios where bed allotment needs to be unblocked. We unblocked over 20 allotments on Monday, the first day the reform was implemented,” the official said.

Public health expert Dr. Sylvia Karpagam said that in allowing Mr. Surya to make “ill-considered changes” to the bed allotment software, the Karnataka government was again giving in to ad hocism. “Neither Mr. Surya nor the techies he has brought on board understand healthcare needs. Preventing corruption cannot be the only goal. They seem to be introducing new issues into an already overwhelmed system. The government must bring on board senior government doctors and public health experts to take such calls,” she said.

However, some of his reforms, including assigning name of the person who blocked the bed, an auto-generated SMS to patients and hospitals on allotment of bed and bringing transparency in discharge of patients from hospitals, have been welcomed. Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa also flagged the lack of transparency in discharge of patients on Tuesday, and guidelines were issued later in the day.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 5:55:02 AM |

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