In Bengaluru, a man who later tested positive for COVID-19, died after going from hospital to hospital in search of a bed. Notices have been sent to multiple hospitals over this by the Karnataka health department.
A recent order from Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar made it clear that private hospitals should not refuse treatment to those with symptoms of COVID-19. "They could face action under the Karnataka Disaster Management Act and the KMPE Act," the order read.
The death drew criticism of the state government with Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy tweeting: "It is shocking to see COVID-19 patients being turned down by the hospitals due to lack of beds. The government has failed in its duty to protect the citizens."
There is also concern that Bengaluru's medical infrastructure may not be able to cope with the increased demand for institutionalised care as the city has seen a sudden and steady spike in the number of coronavirus cases over the past week.
The city accounts for the majority of active cases in Karnataka which registered the highest single day increase of 1,272 cases in 24 hours.
In this background, authorities have been working to add hospital beds.
On Wednesday, the state government held a meeting with medical experts and the management of private hospitals and colleges, which yielded the promise of more than 4,500 Covid-only beds.
To further reduce the pressure on hospitals and address any shortage of beds, medical experts who met Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa have recommended home isolation and treatment through telemedicine for those who are asymptomatic or only mildly affected.
Emphasising that there is no shortage of beds and "only better coordination was required for timely allotment to save lives", the Bengaluru municipal corporation, or the BBMP, has proposed a Mumbai-like centralised bed management, but streamlined through a software, which is being developed.
The municipal agency said it would ask all testing laboratories to inform the authorities first before letting a patient know that they have tested positive for coronavirus.
It added that around 2,000 beds are already being monitored in this way and more will be added to the list of centrally monitored beds.
This idea of not informing patients first has met with resistance, but the municipal corporation has maintained it would help in planned allotment of hospital beds, rather than have patients run from hospital to hospital.