After HC rap, Karnataka govt wakes up to address COVID crisis

Terming the situation in Bengaluru as “very bad”, the High Court asked the government to anticipate a spike in cases and be prepared with additional beds and medication

The Karnataka High Court directed the State government to create a distribution system for supply of oxygen to the hospitals by coordinating with manufacturers and suppliers.

Two days after the Karnataka High court rapped the state government for its inaction on the COVID crisis, the BS Yediyurappa government woke up to address the issues of shortage of hospital beds, testing delays, and oxygen shortages by passing a slew of orders.

Observing the COVID situation as “very bad” in the state capital with barely any ICU beds and only 11 ventilator beds as per the government data, the High Court asked the government to anticipate a spike in cases and to create additional beds in all categories.

The State government on Friday passed an order saying private medical establishments will now be allowed to expand capacities by setting up step-down hospitals in collaboration with hotels and hostels. The government also fixed the charges based on different categories — Economy/Budget hotel- Maximum of Rs 8,000 per day, Three-Star hotel- Rs 10,000 and 5-Star hotel Rs 12,000. The state had formulated a similar approach last year during the first wave of COVID-19. The state expects to create at least 2,000 makeshift ICU beds in the next two weeks.

As the government data indicated, in Bengaluru, 85% of the COVID-19 allocated beds and 98% of the ICU and ventilators have been occupied. With nearly 25,000 plus new cases each day in the past three days, the court observed that there was an immediate need to increase the capacity.

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The government also passed an order to reserve 80% of the beds, in private and government hospitals with 30 or more beds capacity, for COVID-19 treatment.

With respect to Remdesivir vials, Health Minister Dr. K Sudhakar said he has spoken to Biocon executive chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw to supply 10,000 vials in 10 days and another 50,000-60,000 vials within a month. Besides, he also said the state is procuring two lakh vials from abroad, for which they have the Centre’s approval.

With respect to delay in RT-PCR COVID test results with labs taking 48-72 hours with a spike in cases and undue pressure on the lab technicians, the state ordered, as per the court direction, to give results within 24 hours. That way it could help patients with severe symptoms to get treated at the earliest.

With long queues at the testing centers, the government also said separate lines should be made to accommodate senior citizens and pregnant women. The government also said the hospitals should not be negligent and ask for COVID negative certificates to admit a patient, as it delayed the treatment of non-COVID patients.

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With respect to the oxygen crisis, even as it’s a concern across the country with several hospitals flagging Centre for immediate help, in Karnataka amid complaints of an oxygen crisis, the state maintained that there was enough oxygen supply. “When COVID cases peaked last year, we had used around 300 to 350 tonnes of oxygen. In the second wave, we have already used up 500 tonnes. We estimate a requirement of 1414 tonnes from May 1, which the Chief Minister has conveyed in yesterday’s meeting with the Prime Minister,” Sudhakar said.

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