Covid-19: Pune hospitals struggle with critical patients; doctors, hospital staff crunch likely

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Updated: Sep 22, 2020 8:48 AM

Pune Coronavirus Tally: While the recovery rate within Pune municipal jurisdiction has reached 85% compared to 63.8% in July, the number of patients coming from the rural areas and from districts surrounding Pune for treatment to the city has increased.

This poses a new challenge to the city's health infrastructure.This poses a new challenge to the city's health infrastructure.

Covid-19 cases in Pune: Pune has seen a fall in case fatality ratio (CFR) over the last three months, but there has been a rise in the critical ratio of Covid-19 cases that’s putting considerable pressure on the city’s hospital infrastructure. Patients are reaching hospital at an advanced stage, causing a rise in critical cases. While the recovery rate within Pune municipal jurisdiction has reached 85% compared to 63.8% in July, the number of patients coming from the rural areas and from districts surrounding Pune for treatment to the city has increased. This poses a new challenge to the city’s health infrastructure.

Though Pune’s CFR has come down from 4.9% in June to 2.3% in September, it continues to be higher than the national CFR, which stood at 1.61%. However, it was lower than the Maharashtra CFR, which stood at 2.79%. The critical ratio, on the other hand, has increased to 5.4% as on September 20 compared to 5.2% in July.

There were 961 critical cases in Pune as on September 20, with 494 patients on ventilator support and 467 without the support in the ICU. As many as 3,507 patients were on oxygen support. Total active cases in Pune city was 17,781 and that in the entire Pune district was 74,766. There were 38 deaths on September 20 of which 12 were of patients who came from outside the city area. On an average, every day 40 deaths are reported in Pune. At the district-level, the death count stood at 80. Getting beds for critical patients continued to be a challenge.

Shantilal Mutha, president of Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana, that has been part of the battle against the pandemic said fear, stigma and livelihood issues were preventing people from coming forward for tests and treatment, leading to higher death rates. If persons showing virus symptoms are treated in the early stages, the chances of recovery are very high, said Mutha.

Sahil Deo, founder of CPC Analytics, said it was apparent that cases were increasing in the rural areas, but the rural health infrastructure was poor. Patients are forced to come to Pune city for treatment. The crunch in hospital beds in the city will continue. The critical ratio is high in Pune but not as bad as it is in Mumbai, Deo said, adding Pune’s critical ratio must fall.

According to data with the Pune divisional commissioner’s office, 5,991 hospital beds have oxygen support, 1,016 beds have ventilator support and 742 beds are without any oxygen or ventilator facility across 100 hospitals. As on Monday, 32 beds with ventilator support and 166 beds without ventilator support lay vacant. Around 910 beds with oxygen facilities were available. The new hospital with 330 beds had only two beds with ventilator support and three beds without available in the ICU. Only 37 beds with oxygen support were free. The largest public hospital in the district, Sassoon Hospital, was fully occupied with 510 patients.

Sudhir Mehta, lead and coordinator, Pune Platform for Covid-19 Response (PPCR), said while hospital beds and equipment could be provided, the greater danger in Pune was that hospitals would soon face an acute shortage of healthcare professionals. It is now for almost six months that doctors, nurses and the support staff have been working and majority of them have not taken holidays. They are all exhausted and will need a break so it is important for the government to find ways to deal with this looming crisis, Mehta said. The current force of doctors, nurses and support staff will not be able to manage and the government would need to reinforce their staff with additional teams of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, said Mehta. PPCR is a volunteers’ group of businesses and start-ups, working on making critical care items available for hospitals and supplementing government’s efforts to contain the pandemic.

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