Why are scared Coronavirus patients running away from KDMC hospitals?

Updated: Jul 12, 2020, 10:30 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Poor health infra, lack of beds and ill-trained doctors in Kalyan-Dombivli region have led to a medical crisis; patients are left terrified

BMC medical staff conducting screening tests inside the containment zone at  Parel village. Pic/Ashish Raje
BMC medical staff conducting screening tests inside the containment zone at  Parel village. Pic/Ashish Raje

The situation in the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) is becoming grimmer with each passing day, as hospitals struggle with the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Health experts have raised concerns about the poor health infrastructure in the region, making it difficult to deal with the pandemic.

According to a KDMC health official, as per data available on Saturday, there were 5,681 positive cases, of which 181 had already lost their lives to the virus. Apart from this, another 1,700 asymptomatic patients continue to be in home isolation. There are currently 3,373 beds for mild and asymptomatic patients, of which 2,407 have been occupied. Similarly, 170 of the 218 beds for moderate cases, and 653 of the 694 beds for serious cases are currently occupied.

The problem, according to KDMC health officials is that, the civic corporation only has two hospitals—Bai Rukhminibai Hospital in Kalyan (120 beds, of which 62 have been converted for COVID-19 care) and Primary Health Centre in Shastrinagar, Dombivli, which has seven ICU beds. In both these hospitals, only 46 doctors work on a permanent basis, of which six doctors and 11 nurses have tested positive. The situation is so deplorable that on Thursday night, a patient, who had escaped from a KDMC hospital, died on the pavement nearby. It took more than a few hours for KDMC workers to lift the body. In another case, an elderly lady from Dombivli West, left the hospital against medical advice and died soon after. Both centres, an expert said, are ill-equipped to handle a pandemic of this scale, and unable to keep a check on patients.

When contacted, a senior health official from KDMC said, "We have made temporary ICU facilities available in these two KDMC hospitals just last month, and have entered into an MoU with three private hospitals in Kalyan and Dombivli, which are charging patients corporation-approved rates. Other private hospitals also take Corona positive cases, but they follow the State Health Department's capping of rates, which is still higher than the KDMC's." The official further said that the KDMC has converted a badminton stadium in Dombivli East into a 180-bed COVID hospital.

Dr Anil B Dixit, a senior physician from Dombivli said that the KDMC never had a 100-plus bedded hospital within its corporation, which has led to this medical crisis. "The pandemic has put the spotlight on the need to improve healthcare and infrastructure in the KDMC area," he said. Jacob Thomas, director at RR Hospital, Dombivli, which is now a COVID hospital said that the number of patients is increasing with every passing day. "Our 80-bed hospital has no space available to accommodate patients. Each patient is admitted for a minimum of 10 to 14 days. We cannot take in fresh cases."

According to Dr Wiqar Shaikh, senior allergy and asthma specialist, health infrastructure has always been poor in India. "We spend only 1.28 per cent of our GDP on health, which is an extremely poor figure and is the lowest globally. This is why even established health institutions like medical colleges, district hospitals and primary healthcare centres have poor infrastructure." He also pointed out that most COVID facilities do not have qualified physicians, which has resulted in higher mortality. "These facilities need to be reviewed and health infrastructures need to be urgently corrected," he said.

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