Even as the number of COVID-19 cases are on the decline and health officials assure availability of adequate beds and ICUs, critical care continues to elude several patients who are left to battle it out on their own in case of emergency.
Venkatesan (69) from Kolathur was confirmed of having coronavirus on Sunday evening and was experiencing breathlessness and extreme discomfort. His family rushed him to a private hospital in Porur, however, by the time he reached there, his oxygen levels had dropped, seeing which the hospital refused to admit him. Venkatesan was left in the car for well over an hour. The hospital’s medical team said he needed to be admitted to the ICU, and they claimed they didn’t have enough beds.
The next few hours were spent calling one major city hospital after another only to be told that there weren’t enough adequate beds. “Finally, a relatively new hospital in Maduravoyal agreed to take the patient in and we rushed there and got him admitted,” his son-in-law Jagan said. While Venkatesan is still in critical care, he is at least assured of a ventilator and other facilities. (Read: ‘‘He was seriously ill, yet the hospital didn’t treat him’, on Page 2).
Management representatives of the private hospital later clarified that if the oxygen saturation levels of the patient are considerably low and the patient is aged 50 or above, it is considered a high risk case and they generally do not take in the patient. “We refer them to government hospitals or other hospitals with better facilities,” an official said.
Despite the State government publishing details of availability of beds and ICUs in the government dashboard for COVID-19 patients, such incidents continue to recur in the city. Another private hospital from Porur claimed that though there is adequate bed availability, patients are sent to other super speciality hospitals if the case looks difficult to manage.
Dr Gurunathan, Director of Medical and Rural Health Services said that a regular update is being done by private hospitals on the COVID-19 dashboard on the availability of the ICU beds and ventilators and patients should keep a check on the dashboard to ensure bed availability. However, he added that a large number of ICU beds and ventilators are available but not put to use. “There are adequate beds available in the hospitals across the State. The facilities and beds are available in the government sector also, but many of them even lie vacant,” he added.
‘He was seriously ill, yet the hospital didn’t treat him’
Venkatesan (69) from Kolathur experienced difficulty in breathing last Saturday and was suggested a COVID-19 test by his doctor. When the test results confirmed he was COVID positive on Sunday evening, he was still feeling breathless and extremely uncomfortable.
“We immediately called a private hospital in Porur, confirmed bed availability and left in my car as there was no time to wait for an ambulance. We could see the patient was critical,” said Jagan, his son-in-law.
But when he reached the multi-speciality hospital, Jagan was in for a shock as the hospital authorities, upon checking the patient’s condition, claimed they did not have ICU beds to admit him.
“At that time, my father-in-law’s blood saturation level was 30% and he was dying. Yet, the private hospital asked us to check other avenues and provided an oxygen cylinder to support his breathing in our car. The patient wasn’t even taken to emergency,” Jagan recalled.
Complain to COVID helpline, say health officials
Senior officials from the state health department say that if there is a lack of availability of ICU beds in private hospitals, government hospitals including Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Stanley Medical College and Hospital, ESI Hospital KK Nagar and others in the city have adequate number of ICU beds and ventilators. “Patients should refer to the dashboard while looking up for the availability of the beds to ensure bed availability,” he said.
The official added that if people are denied admission despite the availability of beds in the dashboard, they should immediately complain to toll-free number ‘104’ or the state government’s COVID Helpline 18004250111.
As of now, around 190 private hospitals in the State have been authorised to provide COVID-19 treatment and have been asked to update the bed availability on the State dashboard to facilitate patients while looking for admission. Health secretary J Radhakrishnan pointed out that public preference for private hospitals over government facilities are the main reason for such incidents. He pointed out that about 80 per cent of patients are treated properly in the government sector and treatment for COVID-19 is being done appropriately in all facilities. “There are few private hospitals who have fewer patients now when compared to last month, thus, there is more bed availability currently. However, if there is a disparity in the details on the dashboard and the actual bed availability, it can be inspected,” he said.