Doctors weigh in on the possible ways to ease burden on ICU beds

With a steep spike in coronavirus infections in the State, ICU beds in hospitals are fast getting filled up or, worse, unavailable for COVID-19 patients showing severe symptoms.

Filled with anxiety and desperation for critical care attention, family members of COVID patients are trying all means to arrange for an ICU bed. Many others are concerned over whether they will manage to arrange for an ICU bed should they or someone in their family test positive for the infectious disease.

Considering the current situation, senior doctors have certain suggestions to help avoid tragic scenarios as witnessed in other States where COVID patients died waiting for hospital beds.

‘Can allot trained staff to run expanded ICUs in govt. hospitals’

D. Nageshwar Reddy, chairman of AIG Hospitals, Gachibowli, says it is time for the government and private sectors to collaborate. He suggests that corporate hospitals can allot trained human resources to run expanded ICUs in State-run hospitals as the government can absorb costs. “We (private facilities) cannot set up ICU beds on a day’s notice. It takes 10 days or more. Two factors are involved — infrastructure and human resources. ICUs need specialised beds and other components such as high-flow nasal oxygen. It takes two to three weeks to get ventilators after placing an order. So, it takes 10 to 15 days to expand ICU,” Dr Reddy says.

The same amount of time is needed to train staff in handling patients who need intensive care. He added that private hospitals will be at a loss as the expanded ICUs might not be used when the severity of the pandemic reduces.

“Four to five private hospitals can take care of around 200 beds. It is not expensive to provide human resources. It will be a win-win situation,” he adds.

‘Every member of a coronavirus patient’s family has to turn doctor’

Telangana Super Speciality Hospitals Association president B. Bhaskar Rao opines that every person has to equip themselves with basics of COVID-19 management such as checking heart rate and oxygen saturation levels. This helps to take care of their dear ones with mild or moderate symptoms, and they wouldn’t need to rely completely on hospitals for basic treatment.

Mild COVID patients can be put up in non-hospital settings such as hotels, or other such large facilities where beds are available, he suggests, adding that patients with moderate infection in need of some oxygen can be admitted to private medical colleges which have 10,000 beds put together, across the State. In both cases, he says, family members of a COVID patient have to train themselves in monitoring vitals like heart rate, oxygen saturation levels and other factors. Doctors have to be informed of the readings and nurses can be allotted to the facilities to attend patients if any medical service such as administration of injections is required.

“If the condition of a patient deteriorates, they can be rushed to a government or private tertiary care centre based on their financial capacity. We can tie up with 100-200 ambulances in government and private sectors. This way, burden on tertiary care hospitals will come down. The beds in tertiary care centres will be reserved for patients who actually need it,” Dr Bhaskar Rao says.

‘Private medical colleges must admit patients with moderate severity’

Senior doctors and administrators of government hospitals where COVID-19 patients are being treated say their facilities in Hyderabad alone cannot take burden of the crisis. ICU and oxygen beds in the hospitals are almost full in Gandhi Hospital, Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences and the District Hospital in King Koti. Getting either of the two types of beds is a test of patience.

Patients from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States also are getting admitted here, which puts government hospitals under immense pressure.

Senior doctors and administrators unanimously agree that private medical colleges have to admit moderate COVID-19 patients who need oxygen while patients in need of critical care can be attended at government hospitals. This categorisation can help ease the burden.

“Every district has one District Hospital, and many Area Hospitals. The latter are already equipped with oxygen beds, but their facilities have to be improved. High flow oxygen supply has to be increased at Area Hospitals in other districts. With improvements in facilities and infrastrucrure, the burden on District Hospitals can come down. Thus, burden on tertiary care centres will also come down,” said a senior doctor.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 1:27:52 AM |

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