Officials put up a brave front

The sharp rise in daily infections in Chittoor district, the highest in the State, triggers worries about an uncertain future

With eight government COVID hospitals available in Tirupati, Chittoor and elsewhere in the district, the medical and health officials put up a brave front in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but the fear of an uncertain future scenario is writ large on their faces. Chittoor district has been reporting the highest number of daily cases and casualties in the second second wave of the pandemic so far.

The daily count of cases at 3,000 is unnerving the COVID task force officials. The fluctuations in the supply and demand of oxygen stocks, and poor availability of beds in the leading SVRR Hospital in Tirupati are adding to the worries.

Of the 20,000-plus active cases, about 12% are currently admitted to hospitals, while half of them are dependent on oxygen support. The non-availability of ICU beds in the area hospitals of Srikalahasti and Kuppam, which cater to the vast population of the eastern and western mandals, is also becoming a cause of concern for officials. The Kuppam hospital does not have a single ventilator.

A task force official says that though a dozen private hospitals are equipped with about 2,000 beds for COVID patients, most of the patients, hailing from middle classes, are reluctant to seek admission there fearing exorbitant charges.

A senior medical officer says that in spite of monitoring by government officials, the private facilities continue to fleece patients. There have been cases of patients who ran out of funds being forced to leave private hospitals and rush to government facilities, frantically searching for beds.

Capacity addition

COVID Task Force Special Officer P. Ravi Raju says that in order to overcome the shortage of beds, steps are being mooted to increase the capacity from time to time. “At present, there is a sufficient stock of oxygen in SVRR and Padmavathi hospitals in Tirupati and the district hospital in Chittoor. Some donors have provided oxygen tankers for the COVID hospitals,” he adds.

Attributing the increase in critical cases and casualties to the ‘arrival of patients at hospitals with below 50% oxygen levels and their gross neglect of co-morbid conditions during home isolation’, District Coordinator of Health Services (DCHS) Dr. P. Saralamma says that the task force personnel are trying to intensify tracing and testing of contacts and triaging, and strictly bar home isolation for cases with co-morbidities.

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