Coronavirus numbers peaked in West Bengal today, but even as a fresh round of lockdowns kicked in, almost half the private hospitals in the state appeared to be running out of beds.
The health department reported 1,198 new COVID-19 cases in the state Friday evening, 374 of them in Kolkata. 26 people died in the last 24 hours in the state, raising the death count to 880.
At the same time, As much as 73 per cent of COVID-19 beds in government hospitals were vacant but in private hospitals, only 14 per cent beds were empty. In number terms, government hospitals have 10830 beds and, 7904 vacant. Private hospitals have 1,423 beds, 206 are vacant
What is more - of 33 private hospitals, 14 on Friday did not have a single vacant bed.
"Last night only 191 beds were available. Why this is happening? Somehow they don't have confidence in the government. They should have. Government doctors are excellent but somehow there is lack of confidence in government set up," Dr Koushik Lahiri of the West Bengal Doctors Forum said.
According to a Kolkata Municipal Corporation study, Dr Lahiri said 85 per cent cases in Kolkata are from upper income homes in high-rise buildings from where patients tend to go for private healthcare. Slums are contributing 15 per cent cases and they go to government hospitals, he said.
Sources in the government say the problem was that asymptomatic patients are crowding hospital beds when they could be in home quarantine. An effort is apparently on to expedite their discharge.
Till then, patients in need may be in for harrowing times. And deal with the fact that the state has 948 ICU beds and 395 ventilators in total.
"The number of ventilators is definitely low. Something the government couldn't fix despite repeated requests from doctors' organisations," Dr Lahiri said.