The state health department has sanctioned 435 new paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) beds across the state ‘to combat probable surge of Covid-19 cases’, a notification issued by the department on Friday mentioned.
In Kolkata alone, 218 beds were sanctioned in seven hospitals — Calcutta Medical College, Calcutta National Medical College, Chittaranjan Seva Sadan, NRS Medical College, RG Kar Medical College, SSKM Hospital and BC Roy Hospital.
Besides 80 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds were sanctioned in SSKM Hospital and 10 at Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital.
The communiqué to the medical superintendents of the hospitals mentioned that “these units are to be made functional within a short period to combat probable surge of Covid-19 cases”.
Doctors said that there is an apprehension about a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are anticipating that a third wave could see greater number of children getting infected with Covid than before. Though there is no evidence to suggest that the severity of the infection would be grave, a widespread infection would definitely mean requirement of more hospitalisation, said doctors.
Soumyadeep Bhaumik, a public health specialist with The George Institute of Global Health, India welcomed the decision to add more paediatric beds. “It is always good to have additional beds ready in anticipation than starting to add beds when the number of infections already start rising and there is a scramble for beds. But merely adding beds will not be enough because there has to be adequate number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers who are trained for paediatric care,” said Bhaumik. “Paediatric care is completely different from healthcare services provided to adults. There should be a health systems approach, which means all components associated with paediatric care should be suitably augmented,” he added.
The BC Roy Postgraduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences at Beleghata was sanctioned 72 PICU beds on Friday, the highest among hospitals in Kolkata. Calcutta Medical College and Hospital was sanctioned 30 beds, NRS Medical College and Hospital was sanctioned 36 beds and SSKM Hospital was sanctioned 44 beds.
Among hospitals in other districts, Murshidabad Medical College was sanctioned 37 beds, while the medical colleges and hospitals in Diamond Harbour, Rampurhat, Cooch Behar, Raiganj and Purulia were sanctioned 24 beds each.
An official of the health department said that the beds will come in handy not only for Covid but for any other ailments among children that require intensive care and for newborn babies. The beds that were sanctioned on Friday will stay even if there is no third wave of Covid and will not be withdrawn, said the official. “There are very few PICU and NICU beds in private hospitals in our state, including in Kolkata. This is more the reason why it is necessary to have a good number of such beds in government-run hospitals. Parents of children have to run from one hospital to another to admit their wards when hospitalisation is required,” said the official.
NICU beds are meant for the newborns and usually kids up to one month are treated at NICU wards, said a paediatrician.
The new beds that were sanctioned were over and above 244 PICU beds that were sanctioned few weeks back in the same hospitals.