Week after launch, ITBP-run COVID centre remains under-utilised due to lack of oxygen, medicines

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May 04, 2021 4:08 PM

Opened a week ago to tackle the rise in coronavirus patients here, the ITBP-run COVID-19 care centre has been able to operationalise only 350 of its 500 sanctioned beds due to a shortfall in the required quota of oxygen and a lack of medicines, officials said on Tuesday.

Authorities running the centre agree that there are "shortcomings" but they said that all efforts are being taken to better the facilities. (Representational Image)

Opened a week ago to tackle the rise in coronavirus patients here, the ITBP-run COVID-19 care centre has been able to operationalise only 350 of its 500 sanctioned beds due to a shortfall in the required quota of oxygen and a lack of medicines, officials said on Tuesday. The second wave of the coronavirus has put huge pressure on the country’s health system, with several states reeling under a shortage of beds, oxygen, medicines and equipment.

Official data accessed by PTI showed that as on Sunday, only 350 oxygen beds (out of the total 500) were operational at the Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre (SPCCC). The data also showed that the facility in south Delhi’s Chattarpur area was getting less than half of its sanctioned quota of liquid medical oxygen at 2.99 metric tonnes, instead of 6.55 metric tonnes.

The SPCCC, which is being run by the medical wing of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), began operations on April 26 on the premises of the Radha Soami Beas after the Centre, on the request of the Delhi government, sanctioned its establishment to cater to COVID-19 patients. Officials involved in the running of the centre said the hands of ITBP doctors and paramedics are tied as required oxygen is not available. Besides this, there are also other issues such as shortage of medicines, they said.

The overall functioning of the centre is also dismal as only 309 beds are occupied, as per data tabulated till the first half of Tuesday. Data also showed that since its operationalisation last week, 720 COVID-19 patients were admitted to the SPCCC, which has no intensive care unit (ICU) or ventilator bed facilities. Out of these, 301 patients have been discharged on grounds like leave against medical advice (LAMA), discharge on request (DOR) and discharge upon treatment.

Fifty-seven patients were referred to hospitals that can handle serious cases, while over 50 patients have died at the centre till now, the data showed. “LAMA and DOR are those categories under which family members or caregivers themselves seek discharge because they do not find the centre suitable. They either get a proper hospital bed or take their patients out for a better chance somewhere else,” a senior officer involved in the operations of the COVID care centre said.

“We have already written to the Delhi government to provide us the allocated quota of medical oxygen so that all 500 beds are operationalised and patients are treated in a better and streamlined manner,” the officer said. The ITBP last week had issued an official statement saying that the “Delhi government has been requested to increase oxygen supply so that admissions are increased (at the SPCCC).”

“There is a huge influx of patients demanding admission but our capacity is limited by supply of oxygen,” the statement had said. Family members of some patients alleged that there is also lack of basic medicines, food and medical care at the centre. “I shifted my relative as he was not getting proper care and no one was checking on him. Also, he was getting serious with depleting oxygen saturation and the centre does not have ICU or ventilator beds to treat serious patients,” the man’s family member said.

Authorities running the centre agree that there are “shortcomings” but they said that all efforts are being taken to better the facilities. “Initially, we were taking patients who had oxygen saturation over 85 as this was the stipulated guideline of the state government keeping in mind the fact that this is a COVID care centre and not a hospital,” another officer said.

“But, when a number of patients started queueing up outside and they needed some oxygen support walk-in admissions were opened,” he said. Efforts were made to stabilise those patients whose oxygen levels fluctuated between 80-85 but for that one needs “un-interrupted oxygen which is not available,” the officer said. Things are being streamlined but the centre remains “under-utilised”, he said, adding that efforts are being made to source oxygen from some vendors in Haridwar in Uttarakhand and other locations.

The work to install 150 ventilator beds at the facility, after these were recently sanctioned by the Prime Minister’s Office, is also in progress, the officer said.

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