BENGALURU: Ratan and Rita were the happiest couple when Rita gave birth. But their happiness soured just one day later when their precious baby started having convulsions. Holding the baby in their arms, the couple rushed from one government hospital in the city to another, in search of a bed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) unit. Finally, they had to approach a private hospital in Yelahanka.
Every year, nearly 10,500 babies are brought to the city’s hospitals in the hope of getting neonatal care. Unfortunately, with only about 150 neonatal ICU (NICU) beds on offer in the city hospitals, approximately 8,000 babies are sent back without treatment, and some even die due to wait for bed, ventilator, or at times, simply for an ambulance.
Take the case of Pramila B, a 20-year-old mother and her pourakarmika husband who went through a horrific experience as well. After rushing their one-month-old baby to the Vani Vilas hospital, for cough and vomiting, the doctors told them that the baby had to be observed for allergy-related issues. The next day, the baby developed severe complications and was rushed to the NICU after a 12-hour wait.
In Bengaluru, there are four hospitals which have tertiary care with NICU available and three others have level-2 treatments available known as SNCU. However, according to the medical experts, there are only about 150 beds available in the entire city for a patient inflow of more than 300 every day. Statistics from the State Department of health and Family Welfare available with The New Sunday Express showed that in the last one year (2018-19), 64,828 babies have been admitted to the State Special Newborn Care Units (SNCU) and NICUs of which 49,673 babies have survived.
While many of them are turned away, there are also days when the hospital staff is forced to make them share beds in the Intensive Care Units. Speaking to The New Sunday Express,
Dr Geetha Shivamurthy, the Medical superintendent of Vani Vilas Hospital, which receives the highest number of patients, said, “We get some of the most complicated cases referred to us, both for delivery and for special neonatal care. Sharing beds is the last resort for many patients and we try our best not to turn them away.”
However, the unit has only 48 beds and gets approached by at least 15 to 20 patients per day. The hospital itself delivers about 1,800 babies a month, 30 per cent of which, according to the doctors there, would require intensive care because of foetal distress syndrome, premature deliveries, malnourished mothers, teenage deliveries and other complicated cases.
In July itself, according to statistics available with TNIE, it has handled 500 neonatal babies with 49 deaths.
The corridor leading to the NICU in all these hospitals swarms with worried mothers waiting anxiously to hear about their babies.
“My one-month-old baby was coughing very bad and also vomiting milk, I got worried and rushed to the hospital. Her condition was normal according to doctors. Next morning, they admitted the baby and told me by noon that my baby might not survive,” a woman from Nelamangala cried.