Delhi govt sets up committee to decide on de-escalating Covid-19 facilities

With hospital beds earmarked for the treatment of Covid-19 patients turning vacant, the Delhi government has set-up a four-member committee to make recommendations for de-escalating the services.

The four-member committee includes the special secretary (health) Udit Prakash Rai, director general of health services Nutan Mundeja, Dr Suneet Kaur from the National Centre of Disease Control, and the head of the department of pulmonary medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, professor Anant Mohan.

Delhi has over 18,700 beds earmarked for the treatment of patients with coronavirus disease (Covid-19), of which 5,100 beds are intensive care unit (ICU) beds, with and without ventilators. At present, only 15.2% of the total beds and 26.1% of the ICU beds are occupied, as per data on the government’s Delhi Corona app.

The committee has been asked to submit its recommendations by Wednesday evening.

Despite the government scaling up the number of ICU beds, the occupancy had reached over 86% in November, when Delhi saw its third and highest surge in the number of cases.

The committee has been asked to study the current trends in admission and discharge of Covid-19 patients to make recommendations on whether the number of ICU beds should be de-escalated at this point.

The terms of reference for the committee state, “…the de-escalation recommendations strike a harmonious balance between regional and locational access across all categories of hospitals and the need to have buffer capacity for patients from neighbouring states.”

The recommendations would pave the way for freeing up ICU beds in private hospitals for services other than Covid-19. In November, when the number of Covid-19 cases was on the rise, 75 private hospitals in the city were asked to reserve 80% of their ICU beds for treating Covid-19 patients.

The Delhi government had issued the order to 33 large private hospitals on September 12, during the previous surge in cases. However, the decision was challenged in the high court and a stay was issued. The stay was then vacated when the cases started rising in November and the Delhi government subsequently asked 42 other hospitals to also reserve 80% of ICU beds.

“There is a hearing of the petition in the court tomorrow. Unnecessarily, the Covid-19 beds are lying vacant. The occupancy is hardly about 40%, whereas the non-Covid beds are running full and many surgeries and complex procedures were being delayed for the want of ICU beds,” said Girdhar Gyani, director general, Association of Healthcare Providers (India), who had challenged the Delhi government order earlier.

Besides, de-escalation will also bring respite to the students from Maulana Azad Medical College and University College of Medical Sciences, as their training has been hit due to the lack of regular patients. The Delhi government had converted the associated Lok Nayak Hospital and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital into Covid-only facilities.

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