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COVID dashboard data shows ICU vacancies but patients find none

There are thousands of beds, including ICU beds and ventilators, available at more than 200 hospitals in the city if one goes by the COVID-19 dashboard managed by the Health Department.

COVID dashboard data shows ICU vacancies but patients find none
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Chennai

However, the ordeal that scores of patients and their relatives had to go through while searching for these facilities belie this claim. Making matters worse, the helplines are either not functioning or take complaints only against government facilities.

After many recounted the difficulties they faced, DT Next probed the matter by checking the dashboard and calling some of the private hospitals to verify if they indeed have beds vacant as claimed by the dashboard.

On Thursday, the dashboard showed that there were two ICU beds vacant at a private hospital in Arumbakkam. But when contacted, the hospital officials told this paper that they had only oxygen supported beds but none in ICU.

In another case reported earlier this week, a private hospital in Shenoy Nagar declined to admit a 60-year-old diabetic COVID-19 patient in a ventilator-supported bed even though the dashboard showed there were two beds available.

When contacted, the hospital said availability on dashboard does not ensure vacancies because the data was not accurate. Finally, after about 18 hours, the hospital admitted the patient in an oxygen supported bed as the person’s condition was stable.

In yet another instance, the dashboard claimed that two of the three ICU beds in a private hospital in Royapettah were vacant. However, when the relatives of a 57-year-old female COVID-19 patient approached the hospital, she was denied admission because there were no ICU beds. These are not isolated issues but concerns raised by at least few COVID-19 patients every day. However, there are no platforms to address these problems.

The Health Department has several helplines, including 104, 044- 29510500, 9444340496 and 8754448477, but none of them register complaints against private hospitals. Instead, they ask the public to approach government facilities instead.

When contacted, a senior Health department official said on condition of anonymity that several private hospitals would declare vacant beds on the dashboard though in reality these ICU beds are kept on reserve obliging requests. The official admitted that the department has received reports about such cases, and claimed that they were being investigated. “If public have complaints against private hospitals not admitting patients, they should file them at the office of the Director of Medical Services. All such complaints have to be properly investigated before any action can be taken,” the official said. When asked about the issue, Director of Medical Services Dr S Gurunathan said action would be taken against the private hospitals if there were discrepancies in the data displayed on the dashboard and actual status of bed availability. He maintained that there were adequate number of beds and ICU units at both government and private sector hospitals.

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