“Feeling Helpless”: Bengaluru Doctors Amid Covid Surge, Lack Of Resources

Dr Shilpa, a junior resident doctor at a Covid care government hospital in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru:

For Dr Shilpa, a junior resident doctor at a Covid care government hospital in Karnataka’s capital, the most daunting task amid the deadly second COVID-19 wave is deciding between several critical patients when there is just one ICU bed left in the hospital on most days.

“Most days, we will only have one ICU bed that is vacant and we have to choose between 30 sick patients, and choose one patient to be shifted to the ICU, knowing very well that the other 29 patients will die in the next one or two days,” she said.

Karnataka is battling a massive COVID-19 surge with 47,563 new cases today taking the overall count to 18,86,448. This is a relatively big number in the deadly wave of the pandemic in a state that did not see a spike in cases last year. Some 482 deaths due to Covid were reported in Karnataka today.

With the surge in cases, the demand for medical oxygen and hospital beds has been rising fast in Bengaluru, as in other cities in the state. The positivity rate or the chances of getting infected in Bengaluru is around 40 per cent as the city reported 21,534 cases and 285 deaths today.

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At the forefront of the battle are healthcare workers who have been struggling to cope — both physically and mentally.

“During the last two weeks, Bengaluru has seen a record number of Covid cases. I have worked for the last one week in a ward of 170 patients for whom just two doctors were available to take care of them. Doctor-patient ratio has stooped to such a low level that it was almost impossible for us to take care of our own patients. And as someone who has worked in the first wave, I noticed this time it was more severe,” said Dr Shilpa.

Another junior resident doctor at a government hospital in Bengaluru, Dr Jeevan, said every health professional is working overtime, say for about 48 hours straight, without any rest. “A junior or senior doctor are equally working in a Covid ward for 6 to 8 hours straight in PPE, that too in this hot summer without food, without water, without using washrooms. Running between wards seeing 80 to 100 patients… It is so physically exhausting,” he said.

Many young doctors also talked about the pressure in dealing with family members of patients.

“All of them (patients), not just most of them, require oxygen. But we are not able to help all of them. We see families getting distressed seeing their loved ones suffer. And they get arrogant and many times – very aggressive. This is putting added stress and agony on the already stressed staff,” said Dr Naveen Jayraj, a resident doctor at emergency medicine, of Apollo Hospitals at Bannerghatta road. “We also are feeling very helpless due to the lack of resources.”

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The doctors also talked about the risks they face as the country has been witnessing a huge number of deaths of healthcare workers due to Covid.

“I find it very scary sometimes to go to my house after my shift thinking I would be the one carrying the infection home to my elderly parents and young family,” said Dr Jeevan.

“It is time we stand together, support each other and fight this pandemic together,” he said.

To tackle the cases, Karnataka has announced a two-week lockdown from 6 am on May 10 to 6 am on May 24. Amid a shortage in oxygen, the Supreme Court on Friday said it will not leave the people of Karnataka in the lurch as it declined to interfere with the Karnataka High Court’s order to centre to increase the daily oxygen allocation for the state from 965 tonnes to 1,200 tonnes.

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