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Staff shortage hits quality of Covid care in Bengaluru hospitals

Crunch felt across private and govt set-ups; There will be chaos if Group C, D staff are not recruited immediately: Victoria Hospital doc

Published: 22nd July 2020 06:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd July 2020 12:43 PM   |  A+A-

A health worker conducts a rapid antigen test in Bengaluru

A health worker conducts a rapid antigen test in Bengaluru on Tuesday | Pandarinath B

Express News Service

BENGALURU: A 27-year-old male patient, who was discharged from the Covid ward of a private hospital in Bengaluru two days ago, revealed that he had a tough time with the staff not taking adequate care of him and other patients. “The Covid ward had 24 beds each for men and women. Each ward had only one nurse, who worked in six-hour shifts. If we had any health issues and asked to be checked, the nurse would ask us to wait. The nurses appeared tired from looking after so many patients,” the patient said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

His uncle, who too was admitted for Covid treatment, needed tablets to control his blood pressure but kept getting them late due to staff shortage.The staff crunch at both private and government hospitals is taking a toll on the quality of Covid care provided to patients. While in government hospitals, there aren’t enough staffers to attend to the increasing number of patients, in private hospitals, patients are not even being admitted because of lack of staff.

A doctor from Victoria Hospital said, “We have 90 ventilators and each staff nurse can manage 6 to 8 ventilators in one six-hour shift. That means we need 15 nurses per shift and 45 in all. But we have only 30. How can they manage all the ICU patients? They will have to compromise on healthcare delivery …”
He added, “If vitals of two patients deteriorate at the same time, how will the staff choose who to attend to? They cannot take care of two people at once. If we do not recruit Group C and D workers immediately, there will be chaos in district government hospitals and medical colleges all over the state.”

A senior doctor at KC General Hospital in Malleswaram said, “Our hospital is filled to its capacity of 360 beds -- 100 for Covid and 260 for non-Covid patients. But we have only half the staff. Ten of our staffers tested Covid-positive and 30 others, who were their contacts, have been quarantined. With one-fourth of our staff under quarantine, it is difficult to treat patients properly.”

Dr Prasanna H M, president-elect, Private Hospitals’ and Nursing Homes’ Association, said private hospitals have not been able to fill all their beds, affecting both Covid and non-Covid treatment. “The government asked us to give 50 percent of beds for Covid patients, but we don’t have the staff to cater to this number. The guidelines state that there needs to be four, six-hour shifts as the staff have to change out of their personal protection equipment suits. That is why we need more staff than usual for Covid19 duties,” he said.

Though private hospitals have raised the issue with the government, they have been told to handle the manpower crisis by themselves.Dr Naresh Shetty, president, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, said, “Earlier, one nurse was handling seven beds, but now the government has said one nurse for 10 beds, which leads to excess workload. We are dealing with a major crisis, and if the pandemic continues, we will not have any skilled staff left, as many staffers are testing Covid-positive.”

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