Beds vacant in many hosps as select few bear occupancy brunt

New Delhi: With Delhi gradually on its way to the downward slope of the COVID-19 curve, vacant bed numbers paint a rosy picture of the Capital's healthcare infrastructure but data from city hospitals show that an uneven distribution of hospitalised Coronavirus patients may be putting unnecessary stress on a select few hospitals.

In the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital, there are around 2,000 beds for COVID-19 patients, however, the number of patients admitted are not more than 1,500 to 1,600 with at least a 75 per cent occupancy rate, according to sources at the hospital.

But for instance, at AIIMS Delhi where 800 beds have been reserved for patients diagnosed with the contagious disease, only around 250 are occupied — an occupancy rate of a little over 31 per cent.

Officials from AIIMS have said, "It is RML and Safdarjung hospitals that witness a lot of patients and there might be a bed situation there. However, in AIIMS and other state hospitals, beds and even ventilators are available, and no patient has ever been turned away from AIIMS."

In addition, while the Central government and the Delhi government have created tens of thousands of additional beds, their locations have not been very conducive for patients to visit these alternate healthcare facilities. Hotels that had been attached to hospitals were seeing extremely low occupancy to the point that district officials felt the need to "de-link" three of them unaware that the call can be only taken by the Delhi government.

Furthermore, facilities operationalised by the Centre and district officials like the AIIMS (Jhajjar) and the Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre are at locations Delhiites may not be able to easily access. The Jhajjar facility, with 1,225 beds COVID-19 beds is also seeing a low occupancy rate according to administration officials here.

"The issue is that not everyone can afford to go to Jhajjar because it is outside Delhi and is causing inconvenience to many," said an official of the Delhi government, wishing not to be named.

The 1225 beds at Jhajjar were initially set up for cancer patients but later turned into COVID-19 beds. Central government sources have claimed that they have provided more than 15,000 beds to Delhi and admitted that less than 6,000 were occupied. In fact, resources have been abundant as shown by an RTI reply given to lawyer Aarti Manchanda, which showed that in April, the Centre had allotted Rs 255.21 crore to the Capital for COVID-19 management under the National Health Mission.

For instance, of the 10,000 beds operationalised at the Sardar Patel CCC, 220 are occupied as of Tuesday, with four patients cured and discharged. Moreover, the COVID-19 railway coaches have also shown a low occupancy rate. Officials said that of the 16,000 COVID coaches stationed across Delhi, only 50 are operational at the Shakur Basti railway station where currently 73 of the 800 beds are occupied (Occupancy rate of 9.1 per cent).

However, with this occupancy trend, questions about the strategic deployment of healthcare resources in Delhi have also arisen.

According to the latest data, the total number of Covid beds available in Delhi is 15,300, out of which only 4,194 are occupied. This leaves around 11,106 beds vacant.

Between June 23 — when the highest number of patients were admitted — and July 12, there has been a 31% drop in admissions. There have been a total of 1,15,346 cases, of which more than 93,000 have recovered.

With inputs from Abhinay Lakshman

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