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MUMBAI : Facing an acute shortage of healthcare infrastructure and life saving drugs due to a record surge in the number of covid- 19 infections on a daily basis, the Maharashtra government on Monday decided to set up three jumbo field hospitals in Mumbai in the next five-six weeks. Government officials said that each of these medical facilities will have a capacity of 2,000 beds, including 200 ICU beds and 70% oxygen beds. They will be set up at three different locations in the city even as Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai’s top civic body announced the addition of 300 more Intensive care Units ( ICU) across hospitals to deal with rising number of critically ill patients in the country’s financial capital.

With hospitals in Maharashtra running short of beds, ventilators and Remdesivir, a key antiviral drug, doctors say the second wave of coronavirus infections is turning out to be more difficult to manage than the first wave.On Sunday Maharashtra reported 63,294 new infections and 349 deaths, taking the total caseload to 34,07,245, with 57,987 deaths till now. "We have been working round the clock for a year now and it's very demotivating to see people not practicing basic protocols. The hospital beds are full. We have to choose between which patient to attend to," said a doctor with a private practice in Mumbai.

Due to lack of sufficient beds, on Sunday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) moved to make home quarantine rules more stringent for the patients with milder symptoms , directing medical officers at ward level to take charge of 50 patients each who would be under home quarantine and keep checking on the health of these patients as patients living in high rises and one or two BHK flats are being advised isolation at home.

Additionally, the BMC said that it has decided to operationalize 1100 additional covid beds at covid centers and hospitals including 125 ICUs in the next seven days. BMC has so far added 325 additional ICU beds in various hospitals in Mumbai and the number of ICU beds has gone up to 2466 now. The total number of covid beds on the online bed allotment dashboard has gone to 19,151 comprising 141 hospitals of which presently 3777 beds are vacant, according to BMC. "In Mumbai, 70% of health infrastructure is in the private segment. Plus beds are being added and arrangements being made for ventilators and oxygen. But in tier-two towns which are at the mercy of government hospitals only, the situation needs serious monitoring," said a senior government doctor. At present, 75% of the 20,250 ICU beds are filled and 40% of the 67,000 oxygen beds are filled. Beds are not available in about 11 to 12 districts. He also said that isolation beds have been arranged in the railway bogies at Nandurbar at the request of the Railways, the chief minister's office said on Sunday.

Maharashtra, currently needs 40,000-50,000 remedies daily, as compared to a peak requirement of 30,000 a day last year.

Added to this is the shortage of RT-PCR tests that are needed for accurate diagnosis of covid-19. In Mumbai and its suburbs, either residents could not book slots for RT-PCR testing or be asked to wait for three-four days for a slot. Test results are also delayed by three days at many centers. The state has decided to procure oxygen from Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and other places where oxygen is produced in large quantities.

"About 95% of the patients can be cured by proper treatment at home. Only critically ill patients need urgent hospitalization. But many patients, in anticipation of their health worsening, are queueing up at hospitals. Also, the majority of the patients want a hospital of their choice. This is complicating the situation for us," said a doctor quoted above. The government's task force has suggested that the patient should undergo a six-minute walk test and then a decision be made if beds are to be allotted.

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