There are no beds left to treat Covid-19 patients in several of Kolkata’s top private hospitals amid a steady rise in virus cases in the city ahead of Durga Puja, the biggest festival in Bengal.
There are at least 58 private medical facilities in Kolkata, including super-specialty hospitals, satellite centres of hospitals and nursing homes, which treat Covid-19 patients.
At least 21 of them, which include some of the city’s top health care establishments, reported no vacancy on Wednesday. Another 15 facilities had less than 10 beds left till Wednesday. Patients from the neighbouring districts are also being rushed to the city hospitals adding to the crisis.
“There is demand for a particular category of hospitals which can’t be guaranteed during a pandemic situation. We can only ensure that patients would get adequate treatment by the best experts. Government hospitals are providing very good treatment at free of cost,” said a senior official of the state government.
Senior officials of the state government said that even though private hospitals are running out of beds, there is still a lot of vacancy in government run-hospitals. More than 60% of the beds are still vacant in government hospitals, according to official figures. Private hospitals have fewer beds and hence are running out fast. Less than 25% of the 2,791 beds in private hospitals are vacant now.
“People living in cities like Kolkata and urban areas are mostly inclined towards private health care facilities. This is despite the fact that state-run hospitals offer the best treatment,” said an expert associated with the global advisory body that has been set up to advise the Mamata Banerjee administration.
This comes at a time when Kolkata is witnessing a steady spike in Covid-19 numbers amid the festive season. While city had registered 428 new cases on August 30, on October 7, the number of new cases reported from Kolkata stood at 758.
“Puja shopping has started. People are crowding the streets and markets. The positivity rate is increasing because of this. We have to be very cautious and strictly ensure that people wear masks,” said a senior official.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had recently warned that the disease is spreading through air borne transmission and that community spread has started.
While the festive season started from mid-September with Viswakarma Puja and Mahalaya, the Durga Puja, Bengal’s biggest festival that continues for over a week, is scheduled in the last week of October.
The West Bengal Doctors Forum on Thursday sent an open letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee warning that if the puja celebrations are held without any restrictions then there would be a massive surge in Covid-19 cases after Durga puja.
The letter cited the example of Kerala which registered a 750% spike in Covid cases after Onam following which the state had to invoke Section 144 of the CrPc restricting public gatherings.
“Several of our doctors are down with Covid and at least 50 of them have died. The health infrastructure care will collapse if there is a massive surge in Covid-19 cases after the puja,” the letter states.