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Sick city & houseful hospitals
Bed sore in dengue battle

The scarcest thing in town at the moment is a hospital bed.

The dengue outbreak this year has not only been the most virulent one in recent years, it has also shown up the city’s health care infrastructure for what it is: inadequate for anything remotely resembling a crisis.

If government hospitals across Bengal have patients sleeping on the floor or sharing a bed at the best of times, this dengue season has stretched even the large private hospitals that have in excess of 300 beds.

As on Monday, almost all of them had full occupancy with an average of 10 per cent of the patients being treated for confirmed or suspected dengue (see chart). BP Poddar Hospital, which is smaller in comparison with 125 beds, was forced to turn away a four-year-old dengue patient who died in another private institute later in the day.

Mohini Adhikari of New Alipore had been referred from the state-run MR Bangur Hospital to a “better equipped facility” when her condition deteriorated on Sunday after spending the previous night on a bed shared with three other children. The girl’s family took her to BP Poddar Hospital on Monday, which was already full with 129 patients admitted against its operational capacity of 125 beds.

“She was brought to us with high fever, respiratory distress and a high pulse rate. We were already running beyond capacity, so we couldn’t admit her,” the medical director of BP Poddar Hospital, Sharadwat Mukherjee, told Metro.

Mohini’s uncle Ananta Adhikari said his niece had been running a temperature for around a week.

“We visited one government hospital after another before trying private nursing homes. MR Bangur Hospital took her in on Saturday but it was so packed that the doctors there asked us to take her elsewhere.”

Officials said the rush of patients had increased since Metro first highlighted the bed scarcity on August 24.

Belle Vue Clinic, where 32 patients were under treatment for dengue on August 23, had 38 names on the vector victim list on Monday. The hospital has treated more than 250 dengue patients over the past month.

“We don’t have vacant beds. Many patients are being kept in the emergency ward till they stabilise. Once they are better, we request their families to take them elsewhere,” said the CEO of Belle Vue Clinic, Pradip Tondon.

Belle Vue is one of the larger hospitals with 300-plus beds, out of which around 40 are presently occupied by dengue patients. Such is the rush that planned surgeries are being kept on hold to admit patients requiring emergency admission.

“We are asking even cancer patients with dates for planned surgeries to come only when beds are available,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay.

Health department officials said government-run hospitals and medical colleges were “overburdened” throughout the year and didn’t have the infrastructure to handle the dengue rush.

At Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, 10 patients who have tested positive for dengue in the MAC-ELISA test were undergoing treatment on Monday. “We have another 30 patients with symptoms of dengue. So you can imagine the pressure,” said medical superintendent Partha Pradhan.

A large number of the patients queuing up for admission at private hospitals on a given day are those who first did the rounds of government hospitals and didn’t find a bed, sources said.

Apollo Gleneagles on the Bypass underwent an expansion last January, adding 95 beds to become a 520-bed hospital. It was full on Monday but CEO Rupali Basu said nobody had been refused admission. “Our emergency beds have increased from six to 12. This is the reason we are not facing a crisis. No patient has been turned away.”

Another multi-speciality hospital, CMRI, said the spate of dengue patients had added to the pressure. “There is always pressure on us to take in patients. There has been a 10 per cent increase in volume since the dengue outbreak,” chief operating officer Rupak Barua said.