BENGALURU: The corona task force in Karnataka has stacked up terrifying estimates for the state: around 80,000 COVID-positive patients, of whom 12,000 would need hospitalization, 9,600 would need ICU care and 4,800 respiratory support with ventilators. For Bengaluru, the estimate is 16,000 patients, 2,400 would need hospitalisation and 2,000 ICU care, with 1,000 ventilators.
The task force has made recommendations, such as launching fever clinics with online consultation across the city, increasing the number of testing centres and even methodology, standard operation procedures for various stages of illness and protection, a dedicated COVID-19 hospital, pooling ventilators and other equipment, and stocking up enough PPEs.
“For round-the-clock coverage of ICU, 2,800 nurses, 800 resident doctors and 400 anaesthetists are needed. A minimum of 200 senior intensivists/anaesthesiologists are needed to cover 2,000 beds. Teleconsulting to be permitted in this crucial period,” the task force has recommended.
Dr Nagendra Swamy, principal coordinator of the Federation of Healthcare Associations Karnataka (FHAK) said, “We will have to import ventilators as there are few Indian manufacturers. Local companies are only distributors of ventilators. We would need around 2,000 beds in Bengaluru and 5,000 beds outside Bengaluru, which can be arranged in coordination with private hospitals.”
“The challenge is in handling huge patient load. If there are 20 patients and 5 ventilators, for example, how does one choose who needs the ventilator? That is why the Karnataka government has ordered lockdown so that more people are not infected. Coronavirus is like a flu which spreads fast, hence social isolation is required,” Swamy said.
Dr R Ravindra, president of Private Hospitals and Nursing Home Association who is part of the COVID-19 Coordination Committee (separate from task force), said, “Apart from ventilators, we will need collaboration between private and public hospitals when we enter Stage 3 and 4. We are working with the government on how to get so many ventilators, manpower and also how to protect the manpower. There is a gross shortage of Personal Protective Equipment.”
Hydroxy-chloroquine in short supply?
Dr R Ravindra and Dr Nagendra Swamy said there is a shortage of Hydroxy-chloroquine drug, which is usually used to treat malaria.Dr Swamy said, “The Indian Council for Medical Research guidelines say that the drug is meant for asymptomatic health workers at high risk, and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases. However, the drug is already out of stock, it got exhausted on Monday night soon after news of these guidelines broke. People are buying it over the counter without prescription, while it is meant for the aged and those suffering from diabetes and other ailments.”
Dr Ravindra said, “Supply of the drug is short, probably due to hoarding or unnecessary buying. The guidelines clearly state that this is only a prophylaxis, which means medicine taken to prevent infection, meant for healthcare workers on the front lines, and immediate contacts of suspected patients.”
However, AK Jeevan, general secretary, Karnataka Chemists & Druggists Association, said, “The production of this drug until now was only done for malaria cases, and supply was as per demand. There is no hoarding or panic buying of this drug. In 3-4 days, we will have enough supply to meet the new demand that has surfaced after ICMR guidelines were issued on Monday.”