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If the number of cases in Mumbai hits 40,000 by the end of this month, the city will need as many as 2,000 ICU beds.  (Photo: Bloomberg)
If the number of cases in Mumbai hits 40,000 by the end of this month, the city will need as many as 2,000 ICU beds. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Mumbai is running out of ICU beds as covid cases spike

  • According to the BMC, 10% of covid-19 patients require critical care in India's financial capital
  • BMC expects 40,000 cases by the end of this month. It would need at least 4,000 ICU beds for critical cases

Mastan Shaikh ran from pillar to post for four days searching for an intensive care unit (ICU) bed for his 53-year-old critically-ill father.

A resident of Tilak Nagar in suburban Mumbai, Shaikh’s father Kamal Basha Shaikh, a diabetic, was rushed to the Zen Multi Specialty Hospital in Chembur on 17 May. The private hospital refused to admit him without a covid-19 negative certificate.

Later, he was put in an isolation ward at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar. From posting on Twitter to making multiple calls to the BMC disaster helpline, Shaikh tried everything he could to find an ICU bed for his father in Mumbai’s several dedicated covid-19 public hospitals.

On 20 May, he finally got his father's test report that showed he was covid-19 positive. “Getting the test was challenging as it required a lot of paperwork, but even after we managed to get that done, the results came four days later. By then my father’s condition had become very critical," said Shaikh.

The report, however, had erroneously listed his father’s gender as female, making it inadmissible at any municipal hospital. “After making several pleas, I got a call from the SevenHills Hospital that they had an ICU bed available on first-come, first-serve basis," said Shaikh. But his father passed away before Shaikh could shift him to the ICU ward.

Around 2 am on 21 May, Shaikh's father died a lonely death at the Rajawadi hospital's isolation ward, with the ambulance yet to reach the facility.

“After he passed away, I got a call from BMC at 3:30am that the ambulance to take him to the ICU had finally arrived. My father paid the price of BMC’s callousness with his life," Shaikh said over the phone on Tuesday.

Shaikh’s pain is felt by many in Mumbai who have lost their dear ones for the want of ICU beds.

About 10% of covid-19 patients require critical care in Mumbai, according to a 26 May statement by Pradip Vyas, principal secretary at the state health department.

With 32,974 cases reported till Tuesday, this would translate into a requirement of nearly 3,297 ICU beds. With municipal and state-run hospitals accounting for nearly 644 ICU beds, the number of patients requiring critical care is clearly five times over. As of Tuesday, 96% of these ICU beds under BMC were already occupied.

Last week, the municipal corporation of greater Mumbai took over 80% of the beds in private hospitals in the Mumbai metropolitan region. This has brought an additional 645 beds into the fold, taking the total ICU beds to 1,289.

BMC is adding 600 more ICU beds over the next month as it sets up health facilities across the city.

“We will be increasing the ICU bed capacity to nearly 1,000 shortly, in the private and jumbo health facilities. Most of the beds have oxygen supply and are fully equipped, and should be adequate for taking care for patients suffering from monsoon-related diseases as well," said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner at BMC.

The municipal body, which expected covid-19 positive cases to reach 75,000 in the city, has revised its estimates downward as the doubling rate of patients has slowed down from 10 days as of 27 April to 14 days as of Tuesday.

Now, it expects cases to reach 40,000 by the end of this month. If one considers 10% of them to be in need of ICU bed facility, the financial capital would still need at least 4,000 ICU beds to cope with the growing demand for critical care.

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