Shortage of nurses hits ICU bed plans
The ICU beds for Covid-19 patients at several private hospitals are all occupied but the authorities are unable to increase the number of such beds in the absence of enough nurses trained in critical care, officials of the hospitals have said.
A nurse attending to patients in an intensive care unit (ICU) — also called intensive therapy unit — has to monitor many equipment like ventilator and bipap, both of which provide oxygen, and conduct arterial blood gas tests.
Administrators of private hospitals, who have been repeatedly impacted by the exit of nurses to the government sector, said double the number of nurses were required to run an ICU for Covid patients compared with a general ward for patients suffering from the disease.
Sudipta Mitra, the chief executive of Peerless Hospital, said “12 or 13” nurses were allotted every shift for 21 ICU beds reserved for Covid-19 patients in his hospital. “In comparison, 25 nurses per shift manage the 129 general beds for Covid-19 patients,” he said. “The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Act says the patient-to-nurse ratio in ICU will be 1:1. But most hospitals are unable to maintain that because there is an acute shortage of nurses trained to manage ICU,” said an official of a private hospital.
Officials of AMRI Hospitals and Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals said their Covid ICU beds were all occupied. While Apollo has 16 ICU beds for Covid patients, AMRI has 92 at its hospitals in Salt Lake, Dhakuria and Mukundapur.
An official of AMRI Hospitals said they had no immediate plan to increase the number of ICU beds for Covid patients. An official at Apollo said they had increased the number of ICU and high dependency unit beds for Covid patients ahead of Durga Puja. “We have no plan to immediately ramp up ICU beds,” the official said.
Rupak Barua, the group CEO of AMRI Hospitals, said they were ready with equipment and other infrastructure to ramp up the critical care bed count. “But there is a dearth of trained doctors and nurses who can manage ICU patients. That is why we are a little slow in increasing the number of critical care beds for Covid patients, though we feel there is a demand for such beds,” he said. Alok Roy, the chairperson of Medica, echoed Barua.
Mitra of Peerless Hospital said they had started training a new batch of nurses in critical care. “Most of the nurses who left our hospital were doing ICU duties. The training of the new nurses will take a few months. There is no scope to increase the number of Covid ICU beds till then,” he said.
The chairperson of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission has requested private hospitals to increase their ICU bed count through a WhatsApp message.
The Telegraph had on October 20 reported that a fresh round of exodus of nurses from private hospitals had threatened their plans to ramp up beds ahead of Durga Puja. The state government had recruited more than 550 nurses in state-run hospitals around that time.