ICU that did not see you

A fully equipped Sarige Suraksha ICU-on-wheels, stands unused outside the Anekal General Hospital. It came too late, say the staff, after the peak had passed

When there’s no demand for an ICU it’s a good thing. But when a fully-equipped ambulance, with five beds, and oxygen and ventilator support, comes too late, it’s sad to think about the lives it could have saved.

This ICU-on-wheels, has been stationed outside the Anekal general hospital for a week now, and it has no covid patients. Doctors at the hospital say that this bus, modified into a state-of-the-art ambulance, came a little too late.

The Sarige Suraksha (ICU on the wheels) vehicle was launched on May 19 by KSRTC when the cases were still at their peak, to help patients seeking hospital admission. KSRTC buses were modified by the transport authority’s in-house team, and the BBMP donated them to different hospitals where beds were in great demand.

The Anekal General Hospital has about 66 beds including 8 ICU beds with ventilators. Of these only eight beds with oxygen are available now. During the peak, when the daily bed requirement was over 30, the hospital had made arrangements by setting up extra beds in a tent on its premises. When Bangalore Mirror visited the hospital, the ICU-on-the wheels seemed unused with no covid patients inside.

A hospital staff who did not wish to be named said, “The vehicle has five ICU beds out of which three have ventilator facilities. We haven’t been able to use it fully, as we need to deploy staff or a doctor to stay inside the vehicle at all times. We don’t have enough staff.”

(Clockwise) The interior of the ICU-on-wheels; the vehicle parked outside Anekal Hospital; People wait outside the counter at the hospital

Dr Nalini from the Anekal General Hospital said, “Two weeks ago we were getting about 30 new patients every day and it was difficult to attend to everyone. But now the number has dropped. The ambulance has all the facilities – oxygen cylinders and ventilator support. The engine needs to be kept running for us to use the ambulance. We use the vehicle for emergency cases during the night. We keep the patient inside the vehicle until there is a discharge and immediately shift them back in as some patients don’t prefer to be inside the vehicle alone. If we had got the vehicle two weeks ago, we could have utilised it better as there was a huge demand for beds. Currently, it’s empty and we will use it when necessary.”

Two weeks ago we were getting about 30 new patients every day and it was difficult to attend to everyone. But now the number has dropped ­

–Dr Nalini, Anekal General Hospital

Dr Nalini added that when the cases started increasing in April, they were short-staffed and did not have ventilator support in their hospital to treat the patients. “Within a short time, we arranged additional beds along with staff, which was sponsored for the hospital. The main requirement at that time was ICU ventilator beds, which were also taken care of. If the cases increase, we will start using the ICU-on-wheels,” she said.

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Sagar Biswas

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