Oxygen bed nightmare restarts in Bengaluru

A blow-by-blow account of how a patient died after being refused by two branches of same hospital

It’s 2020 all over again. A 33-year-old man lost his life, despite volunteers and members of the Covid War Room coordinating his admission into two hospitals, which refused to take him in after a bed was allotted there.

The man died, with doctors refusing to give him oxygen or check his SP02. After being driven around for six hours he succumbed on Saturday morning.

The patient was admitted to a private hospital in Madiwala three days ago with pneumonia and he later tested Covid-19 positive. When the hospital asked his family to move him out, they contacted Mohammed Ibrahim Akram of Beijing Bites, an Emergency Response Team (ERT) member. ERT is a group of volunteers that helps poor people find Covid beds. Soon, Mohammed Ismail from ERT, started working the phones for a bed.

“When I received the call from the patient’s caregiver, they were heading home towards Shivajinagar in an ambulance. The caregiver did not know the patient’s SP02 or the oxygen levels in the cylinder. Even the ambulance did not have a pulse oximeter.” This is Ismail’s account of what happened on Friday evening.

* 7.30 pm: Request raised with 108 to allocate a bed

* 8.15 pm: After many calls, an HDU bed is blocked at Mahaveer Jain Hospital, Vasanth Nagar

* 8.30 pm: Ambulance reaches hospital with patient. Patient’s attender calls to say the hospital says no beds available. Panic.

* Ismail and Chief Medical Officer from Covid Ear room speak to doctors at Jain Hospital.

* Hospital sticks to its stand. State’s portal

(Centralised Hospital Bed Management System – CHBMS), and 108 team says beds available

* Discussions continue between patient’s caregivers, volunteers, medical officers and the hospital.

* Patient shows difficulty in breathing.

* Volunteers suspect oxygen in cylinder is running low.

* Request hospital to provide oxygen to stabilise patient in ambulance till bed is found, check vitals, SPO2 levels.

* Request is denied.

* 9 pm: 108 Ambulance service starts looking for a bed.

* ERT receives a call that a bed is blocked in Mahaveer Jain hospital in Girinagar, 12 km from Vasant Nagar branch

* Ambulance is instructed to rush to HBS Hospital enroute to pick up oxygen cylinder from Afsar Bhai and then head to Girinagar.

* 9:50 pm: Ambulance reaches Mahaveer Jain Hospital at Girinagar and again, hospital says no beds available.

* Government officials, ERT volunteers, CMO from war room work phones to get a bed.

* Hospital says they have not started taking govt-referred patients, only individual walk-ins.

* Hospital is requested to check SPO2 and they oblige. It’s 25 and dangerously low.

* After 30 minutes of pleading, patient is taken into Emergency Room. His SPO2 is 7. Oxygen and medication are administered.

* For a few hours, the patient stabilises in ER but hospital says he has to be shifted because he can’t be treated in ER.

* Saturday, early morning, patient’s caregiver said a bed was arranged at a Koramangala hospital. An ambulance with a ventilator shifted the patient to the hospital.

* Patient succumbs at 4 a.m


“This was all due to the negligence of hospitals in not updating the bed count on the portal. I am still reeling from shock and anger at the loss of life due to human negligence,” says Ismail.

Ibrahim from Beijing Bites said, “I’m surprised that our system has so many loopholes. We’re in a worse state than during the first wave of the pandemic. The man who died was a friend’s relative.”

Jain Hospital responds: “We had two beds available and one patient came at 3 pm and the other came in at 8.30 pm. We had no other beds available when this patient arrived. We had to accept these two patients because they came to our doorstep in a critical state. So what could we do when we did not have beds?”

A mother’s struggle

Ameen-E-Mudassar, from ERT, and Mohammed Tausif, tried to find a covid bed for a patient who had been admitted to a hospital for a cardiac issue and later tested positive. The hospital had said they would not treat him but when the volunteers and the patient’s son could not find a bed with cardiac facilities for six hours, the hospital relented.

Health Commissioner responds

Trilok Chandra, Commissioner of Department of Health and Family Welfare told BM, “I am aware of this case. By the time this patient came to the hospital, another patient had already taken his place. The hospital should have updated the bed status, but they did not. To stop this confusion, we have taken steps to ensure that Arogya Mitra representatives will be present at every hospital and will update bed availability in real-time and giving no room for these kinds of mistakes. The BBMP and the Health Department have decided to take action against the hospital under the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act.”

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Sagar Biswas

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