'Admit': doc's dengue shield

Hospitals full as treatment protocol shifts to safety-first

By Sanjay Mandal in Calcutta
  • Published 27.10.17
Mosquito puppets with a dengue awareness message at the opening ceremony of the PUN International Puppet Festival, partnered by t2, at Mohar Kunja on Thursday. (Pabitra Das)

Calcutta: A 12-year-old girl diagnosed with dengue three days ago had a platelet count of 1.3 lakh per microlitre of blood. The girl's doctor verbally assured the parents that their daughter's condition did not warrant immediate hospitalisation, only to write "admission advised" on the prescription.

He isn't the only medical practitioner playing safe. Doctors across the city are invariably advising hospitalisation to people testing positive for dengue, irrespective of their condition. In any case, most patients ask to be admitted for fear of medical complications.

The result? Private hospitals don't have beds to spare while state-run institutes like the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Beleghata make patients share beds.

Even in normal circumstances, hospitals see a surge in admissions post-Puja because of the backlog of planned surgeries and other procedures postponed during the festive period. The escalating dengue outbreak this year has added to the beeline for hospitals.

Health department officials reported 662 new dengue cases in Bengal on Thursday, taking the total of people affected by the vector-borne disease to 20,500. There have been 35 deaths from complications caused by dengue.

"In many hospitals, 10 to 15 per cent of the beds are now occupied by dengue patients and those with fever that might have been triggered by the same virus. Since these patients have to be in hospital for four to five days, there is a shortage of beds," said the CEO of a private hospital. "Many of these patients actually don't need admission, but there is panic because of the unusual behaviour of the dengue virus during this outbreak."

Doctors have been taken aback by how quickly the condition of some patients has deteriorated. "In several cases, the blood platelet count plunges from around 2 lakh to 40,000 in a day; so doctors are not taking chances," said Apurba Ghosh, director of the Institute of Child Health, Calcutta.

Ghosh said he had called an official of a hospital off the Bypass a few days ago to seek a bed for a child. "I was told that all beds, even those in the paediatric intensive care unit and single-bed rooms, were full."

At Fortis Hospital in Anandapur, patients who are to be discharged are shifted to a "transit room" so that the beds can be allotted to patients coming in every hour. The seventh floor has transit rooms with skeletal staff and equipment.

In some private hospitals, patients awaiting admission are first put on trolley beds, just like in crowded government hospitals.