Less than half of COVID-19 beds are occupied
While demand for ICU beds remains high, some hospitals have a few units available
Over the last 10 days, as Bengaluru recorded a fall in new COVID-19 cases, there appears to be a corresponding drop in the demand for beds. As of May 29, only 42% of the total beds available in public hospitals and government quota beds in private hospitals were occupied. Barely 10 days earlier, 64% were occupied.
According to data by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), of the 13,507 beds available, 7,706 were vacant. Only 5,801 were occupied. This includes beds in government hospitals and medical colleges, and government quota in beds in private healthcare institutes.
It is primarily general and high-dependency unit (HDU) beds that are seeing a drop in demand. The need for ICU and ICU beds with ventilators continues to remain high. But volunteers and organisations that The Hindu spoke to said that the hunt for ICU beds has also eased over the last 10 days. Where earlier it was practically impossible to find a vacant ICU bed, now it isn’t so bad, they said.
Meanwhile as of May 29, 21 out of 603 ICU beds were available in the city. Only nine of the 643 ICU beds with ventilators were available. “We have ICU beds available at the moment,” said B. R. Venkateshaiah, Superintendent, K.C. General Hospital. “About 10 days ago, we were flooded with calls for ICU beds. But they were always full. Now, however, we are able to treat all patients without any hassle. We are hoping the same trend continues in the coming days,” he said. Around 20-30% of its beds in all categories are currently vacant.
During the peak of the pandemic, Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute (BMRCI) had increased its bed count from 550 to 750. Now, around 350-400 beds, including ICUs, are occupied.
Smitha Segu, nodal officer for COVID-19, BMRCI, said that though the number of requests for ICU beds has eased, all the units in the hospital are occupied.
While hospital authorities attribute the drop in occupancy to the decline in cases, they also acknowledged that it could be owing to BBMP streamlining its bed allocation system.
Ravindra R., Medical Director, Suguna Hospital, said that a significant percentage of the beds were vacant in the last fortnight. “We reserve 50% of our beds for COVID-19 patients under the government quota, of which 45% are unoccupied. In the coming week, the government should release these beds to us so that we can at least allot and treat non-COVID 19 patients,” he said.
Anoop Amarnath, member of the Critical Care Support Unit and head of the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Manipal Hospitals, also observed that demand has eased over the past six days.
Rajendra Cholan, Special Commissioner, BBMP, attributed the trend to decline in cases and better isolation facilities. “Demand for ICU beds and ICU with ventilator beds is high, but that for general and HDU beds is lower. We will discuss with the Department of Health and Family Welfare the possibility of releasing the beds and also what needs to be done with the COVID care centres,” he said.