Published on April 21, 2021

AHMEDABAD/ SURAT: Ravindra Sathe, a resident of Gota, developed respiratory issues on Monday night. While EMRI 108 took about 12 hours to take him from his residence to an AMC-run hospital, much to the family’s horror, the hospital was full. The same ambulance took him to two nearby hospitals which were also full to capacity. “It took us about five hours to secure a bed with oxygen,” said a family member.

With 76,500 active cases on Tuesday evening, the state scaled another high in Covid cases. According to the government figures, the state has 78,000 government and private hospital beds for Covid-19 patients, giving a 98% occupancy ratio if every positive patient is hospitalized. It results in longer queues of ambulances outside hospitals.

In cities like Ahmedabad, the occupancy is close to that figure – out of 5,587 beds available in 161 private hospitals, 97% were occupied with only nine beds available for ICU and ventilator. At MediCity – consisting of the hospitals in the Civil Hospital campus – the occupancy rate hovered around 96% with 2,388 patients. Why Amdavadis find it difficult to secure a bed?

“The hospitalization period this surge is at least one-and-a-half times higher hospitalization period,” said Dr Hardik Shah, director of Vastrapur-based DHS Hospital. It had zero beds available out of 42 on Tuesday. “In the last surge, the average hospitalization period was about six days. This time, it has increased to nine.”

The reason is higher oxygen dependency, said Dr Saurabh Shah, director of Aartham Hospital. “The patients cannot be discharged till they get stabilized and can breath on their own. Majority of the patients reaching the medical setting require oxygen right at the admission,” he said. The hospital had no bed available out of 108 beds available.

As a thumb rule, those on nasal cannula require six to seven days, BiPAP ten to 12 days and those on ventilators may need anything from 10 days to one month, said a senior pulmonologist at Civil Hospital. “The low turnaround means that the bed doesn’t get empty quicker – on Tuesday, against 4,631 new patients in Ahmedabad city, only 876 got discharged, adding 3,755 new patients. Even if we consider 50% of them requiring hospitalization, about 1,880 persons would be scurrying for the beds today,” said the expert.

Surat also is recording a similar phenomenon. “This time around, we are seeing that lung infection has increased compared to last year due to which patients must be given external oxygen and if necessary, also have to be kept in ICU. On average, patients are discharged only after 10 to 11 days,” said Dr Samir Gami, a chest physician in Surat.

Those with higher chest involvement need observation and hospitalization of up to two weeks, said Dr Dhanesh Vaidya, a Surat-based nephrologist. ““We are seeing patients coming with more complications this time who have to be kept on ICU or on ventilators,” he said.

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