Transportation of oxygen, its storage an issue; 40,000 more cases likely in another 10 days
A COVID-19 surge action plan prepared by the District Surveillance Unit (DSU) suggests that Ernakulam would have to roughly double the number of ICU beds it has presently, to handle the possible surge in cases over the next ten days.
Based on the unit’s observations, around 1.5% to 2% of total cases at any point of time would need ICU admissions. The district might require around 800 to 1,000 ICU beds. The district now has 424 ICU beds set aside for COVID patients, and 317 of these are occupied, at both government and private facilities as of Wednesday morning.
The plan flags transportation of oxygen, besides storage capacity at hospitals, as an issue. Sources said that although there is no shortage of oxygen, the demand is expected to grow further, and compatible tanks are necessary for transport, while storage tanks will be necessary at the destination facilities. The administration is attempting to improve production, transportation and storage. The production of medical oxygen is set to increase with BPCL being directed to ramp up production, and four plants coming up at government hospitals.
Other issues that the surveillance unit raised are the admission of category A (mildly symptomatic) persons at private hospitals, and availability of staff at hospitals and laboratories. A committee has been formed comprising representatives from the private sector and government officials to ensure the optimum utilisation of beds, and COVID patient admissions at private hospitals are being tracked.
The plan, based on data available till April 24, projects that the expected caseload in the next ten days is around 40,000 active cases. Around 50% of these cases are likely to be symptomatic, and around 20% of the 40,000 cases might need hospitalisation, necessitating the availability of 8,000 hospital beds. COVID patients who require dialysis are likely to be treated at PVS Hospital and the Thripunithura Taluk Hospital, while COVID patients requiring gynaecological and surgical care will be admitted at the Government Medical College Hospital.
The DSU suggests setting up at least one respiratory ward with 10 oxygen beds in all block primary health centres. The plan also suggests setting up walk-in testing kiosks at railway stations and major bus stands, in addition to deploying mobile testing units for house surveys and testing. Testing capacity of the existing laboratories needs to be increased to avoid delays in getting results. Rapid antigen tests should be used for symptomatic patients and contacts in order to ensure quick isolation.
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