Severe paucity of ICU and ventilator beds in Bengaluru

Karnataka government hasn’t added a single bed since the onset of the second wave of COVID-19

Abhinav had been desperately searching for ICU beds for his mother Vimala, 52, and his elder brother Abhinandan, 32, for five days, but to no avail. “Their condition is deteriorating. We cannot afford treatment in private hospitals, but neither are we able to find beds in the government quota,” he lamented.

He is not alone. Several patients and their families are desperately seeking ICU and ventilator beds in the city for many days now, but have been unsuccessful. The BBMP COVID-19 Hospital Bed Management System (CHBMS) showed that not a single ICU or ventilator bed was available for adults in the city on Monday evening. This has been the case for several days now, even as oxygenated (HDU) beds have freed up during the same time.

Gone are the days of running around for an oxygenated bed. As many as 668 of them, only in government quota, were lying unoccupied in city hospitals on Monday evening, a reflection of falling caseload. However, ICU and ventilator beds remain extremely hard to come by. Only seven ICU beds and four ventilators were available in private hospitals in the city as per portal maintained by Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes’ Association (PHANA).

Multiple proposals by the Karnataka government to add ICU and ventilator beds in the city have failed to take off. Essentially, not a single ICU or ventilator bed has been added since the second wave took the city by storm.

The Department of Health and Family Welfare had piloted a proposal to build a makeshift hospital with 2,000 ICU and ventilator beds in the city and had finalised on a college inside the Victoria hospital premises for the project. “Even as the vendors were being finalised, the project was suddenly taken out of the Department, taking all of us by surprise,” said a source in the department.


Information Commissioner Dr. P.S. Harsha was assigned as the nodal officer to add 4,000 ICU and ventilator beds in the city – 500 in each of the eight zones. However, he was not given any administrative backup or funds, and the project is now being solely spearheaded on the basis of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contributions by corporates.

Dr. Harsha said, in the last three weeks, three separate CSR initiatives had been leveraged towards augmenting beds in the city. Donors have come forward and work is on to convert 405 general beds in government hospitals into ICU and ventilator beds.

Public health activists have come down heavily on the government for withdrawing from adding ICU and ventilator beds.

“It is the government’s job to augment critical health infrastructure in the city. We don’t understand why it pulled back from the project to put up a makeshift 2,000-ICU-bed hospital to give it up for CSR initiatives. Even if the cases in the city abate, this infrastructure will be of great use for patients from other districts,” said Dr. H.V. Vasu, coordinator, Karnataka COVID-19 Volunteers Team and BMC-92.

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Sagar Biswas

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