The second wave of coronavirus in India has put an intense burden on the health infrastructure of many states. States affected the most by this wave are facing an acute shortage of oxygen, ventilators, and critical drugs due to a sharp surge in new coronavirus cases. However, as per a Tribune report, over 250 ventilators were gathering dust in the fag end of March in the Punjab state government’s warehouse amidst the second wave.
As per the report in Tribune, dated March 20, the central government had sent 290 ventilators to the state worth around Rs 30 crore last year, but the state’s health department was yet to unpack them after a year. The ventilators were ideally to be sent to medical colleges or other covid centers offering L-3 care (patients who require two or more organ support) for covid patients.
No trained manpower
The reason cited for no demand from medical colleges or covid centers was the lack of competent manpower to efficiently manage patients on ventilators. The same was revealed by Punjab Health Systems Corporation Managing Director Tanu Kashyap in a meeting. It was also informed that witnessing the rise in cases they were in the process of allocating the ventilators to state government medical colleges.
The Tribune report also says that this was not the first time when the state hospitals failed to use the ventilators. Five years ago, 10 ventilators were sent to Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, but they remained unused for five years till it turned into a controversy when the pandemic hit. It was then proposed to hand the ventilators over to a local private hospital.
Current situation in Punjab
The bed occupancy for Covid-19 patients in Punjab hospitals has doubled in the past two weeks. The State nodal officer for Covid-19 Dr Rajesh Bhaskar informed, “Hospitalisation is gradually increasing in the state amid a fresh spike in infections. The state has enough beds available for level-2 patients in all the districts. High occupancy of level-3 beds is a major concern as it may lead to a high fatality rate. Also, occupancy of level-3 beds is more because people come to the hospital only when they develop severe symptoms and complications. We have enough ventilators, oxygen supply and other equipment to handle the second wave.”
Currently around 2,520 (30%) level-2 beds and 735 (35%) level-3 beds have been occupied as per a data released Saturday evening.
The state recorded 8 deaths and 4,957 fresh cases in the last 24 hours. The city of Ludhiana has re-emerged as a Covid hotspot reporting high transmission of the disease.
Centre comes to aid
Owing to the daily surge in new coronavirus cases, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured the most impacted states with a fresh supply of ventilators. He informed that 1,121 ventilators will be sent to Maharashtra, 1,700 to Uttar Pradesh, 1,500 to Jharkhand, 1,600 to Gujarat, 152 to Madhya Pradesh, and 230 to Chhattisgarh.
The minister, in a high-level meeting with health ministers of 11 states and union territories to review measures taken to prevent, contain, and manage the fresh surge in covid-19 cases urged the states to plan in advance. He also advised the states to increase covid hospitals, oxygenated beds, and other relevant infrastructure to deal with any further surge in cases.