Bengaluru Hospitals Race for Ventilators as Covid Patients with Breathing Problems surge

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Bengaluru’s hospitals are running short of ventilators to treat Covid-19 patients in critical condition, following a sudden surge in cases and because of many patients seeking medical help only when their breathing difficulties become severe.

According to data from Karnataka’s Covid war room, 284 beds with ventilator support are reserved in Bengaluru to treat Covid-19 patients, including in government and private hospitals and medical colleges. While ventilators in government-run hospitals and medical colleges are fast filling, 35 machines are vacant in private medical colleges. As many as 121 ventilators were reserved for Covid patients in private hospitals as on June 15.

Government hospitals and some private hospitals treating Covid patients that ET spoke to said they needed more ventilators as the number of patients and critical cases was increasing.

A medical officer at Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, a dedicated Covid hospital in the city, said 14 of its 15 ventilator beds were occupied on Tuesday. “We have reserved one ventilator for emergency purposes, in case we have to shift a patient from oxygenated bed to ventilator,” the doctor said.

All the six ventilators reserved in Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases have been occupied for the last few days.

“There is a sudden increase in the number of patients with SARI (severe acute respiratory infection) and ILI (influenza-like illness) who come to the hospital with respiratory issues and 80% of them are Covid patients. But we are unable to help them as all our ventilators are occupied,” institute director C Nagaraja said.

Shalini Pradeep, the nodal officer for Covid treatment at privately managed MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, said the five ventilator beds and 200 oxygen-supported beds it had reserved for Covid patients were all full. “Many people come seeking admission, but we turn them down. The government has asked us to scale up ventilators, and we will have more machines in the next few days,” she said.

The demand for ventilators was much low until three weeks ago, after which the number of Covid cases started increasing quickly. As on June 15, only two Covid patients in Bengaluru were on ventilator support. The number of positive cases then was 944. Cases have jumped over 10 folds since, as the city’s Covid tally has now crossed 10,000.

Meanwhile, the government has maintained that there was no scarcity of ventilators. “There is no shortage of ventilators. We will share details,” health commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey told Media.

However, a senior officer from the medical education department said the situation in Bengaluru was no different from the rest of the country. “We need more ventilators. No number of ventilators will be sufficient in a situation like this,” the officer said.

Doctors at government hospitals said corporate hospitals were denying admission to SARI and ILI patients and that was one of the reasons for the shortage of the machines for Covid-treatment. “If private hospitals pitch in, it will ease the burden,” a doctor said.

Karnataka health minister B Sriramulu in March announced that the government would purchase 1,000 ventilators from Mysuru-based Skanray Technologies. Weeks later, the government placed an order for 130 units. Skanray managing director Vishwaprasad Alva said the state had taken 40 ventilators in two batches.