Bungling BMC has no centralised data on availability of beds, leading to criminal delay in admitting patients
Every time a case is detected, BMC officials call dozens of hospitals to check availability of beds. Health Department says consolidated data is “work in progress”

| Lata.Mishra and Shruti.Ganpatye

A 66-year-old resident of Delisle Road tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday morning. She spent 30 hours in KEM’s parking lot waiting to be admitted before she was allotted a bed at St George’s Hospital late on Wednesday night.

The husband of a pregnant Covid-19 positive woman, whose due date is April 17, struggled for 24 hours to get her admitted to a hospital. It required an MLA’s intervention to get her a bed at Nair Hospital.

A Covid-19 positive resident of south Mumbai was taken on a fourhour tour of four hospitals – at each place he was told there were no beds vacant – before he was admitted at SevenHills.

Damning evidence emerged on Wednesday of an overwhelmed civic and state machinery struggling to come to grips with rapidly multiplying cases of coronavirus infections.

While quite obviously there is no centralised desk that is directing patients to hospitals where beds are available, officials are bungling even with simple tasks of arranging a bed for a Covid-19 pregnant woman just hours away from her due date.

In all the confusion, standing instructions are also being forgotten An old woman Mumbai Mirror reporters stumbled upon in KEM’s parking lot is a classic Covid-19 emergency – she is 66, has a history of heart trouble and is running fever. But forget being given the urgent attention she needed, she was not even attended to and banished to the parking lot. The 30 hours she spent in KEM waiting for a bed included a drive to SevenHills Hospital, where, on arrival, she was told there was no space available.

She was finally admitted to St George’s Hospital late on Wednesday night.

And that is not all. Her 36-year-old son, who should have been isolated as soon as the woman tested positive, ended up running around to get her medical attention she so urgently needed.

The man, who had her mother’s throat swab taken last Sunday because she was feverish, received a call on Tuesday at around 11 am informing him that his mother had tested positive. He was instructed to get his mother admitted at KEM.

An hour later an ambulance arrived and took them to KEM. While he had expected a team of doctors waiting to attend to his mom, what he encountered shocked him. As soon as they entered the casualty ward and he declared his mother’s Covid-19 positive status, they were asked to leave the building and wait in the parking lot. They were told that a security guard would inform them as soon as a bed was available. “My mom was not even checked by a doctor, even a nurse, before we were asked to wait outside. They didn’t even offer her a chair. I somehow found a wheelchair in the premises for her. She spent the whole day and then the entire night in the wheel-chair,” he said.

Every time he went to check the status, he was told all hospitals were full and that doctors were trying to arrange a bed. The man and his mom spent the night hungry because no food stalls or restaurants around the hospital were open because of the lockdown.

When he checked in the morning, he was told there still were no beds available. It was around noon that the hospital arranged an ambulance for the woman to be taken to SevenHills. However, doctors at SevenHills too refused to admit her and sent her back to KEM. She was admitted at the staterun St George’s Hospital at around 9 pm on Wednesday and her son sent into home quarantine.

Both KEM dean and officials at SevenHills said there was nothing they could have possibly done to help the woman. KEM Dean Dr Hemant Deshmukh said his hospital is not even a designated Covid-19 centre. He refused to comment why was the patient’s son asked by BMC’s officials to take her to KEM.

Dr Mohan Joshi, in-charge, SevenHills Hospital, said the hospital does not have a single vacant bed. “On Wednesday, all 450 beds of ours were full,” he said, refusing to comment why KEM officials referred the patient to SevenHills if there were no beds available.

A south Mumbai resident had a similar experience, though he had to wait only for four hours before he got a bed. But in these four hours, he was refused admission by four hospitals –Jagjivan Ram Hospital in Kurla, KEM, Kurla- Bhabha and Rajawadi. He was finally admitted at SevenHills in Andheri.

A south Mumbai resident, whose wife is Covid-19 positive and an expectant mother due to deliver on Friday, said for 24 hours nobody in the BMC could tell him which hospital he should take his wife to.

His wife’s swab was collected at a private lab on Saturday last week. “The result arrived on Tuesday – she had tested positive. BMC officials arrived soon and quarantined her in a room. When I told them about her due date, they said they will find a hospital for the delivery,” he said.

However, every time he checked the only answer he got was that there are no maternity homes or wards earmarked for Covid-19 positive women. “They checked with Nair, St George’s, JJ, KEM, Rajawadi and SevenHills, but no hospital was ready to admit her. Either the hospitals were full or did not have delivery facilities for Covid-19 infected patients,” said the man.

He final approached the local MLA Amin Patel, who rang up some people and finally she was given a bed at Nair Hospital. “How many people can get their MLA to intervene. Shouldn’t the BMC by now know how to deal with such emergencies? Shouldn’t there be a dedicated desk looking into who should be referred to which hospital,” asked the man.

A BMC officer, who did not wish to be identified, admitted there is no consolidated data on Covid-19 beds in the city. “We have to call every hospital to check if a bed is available. This leads to delays,” he said.

Dr Daksha Shah, Deputy Director of BMC’s Health Department said the consolidated data on availability of beds will soon be available on BMC’s web site. “It is work in progress. We are also discharging asymptomatic patients to create more space for cases requiring critical care,” she said.