Bed-blocking rules to change as Covid-19 cases drop

Drop in Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru prompts BBMP to change bed-blocking policy

Government hopes to save unnecessary expenditure

Covid patients will be referred to private hospitals only if government facilities reach 90% bed occupancy. DH FILE

Lack of demand for Covid-19 beds in private hospitals and medical colleges has prompted the BBMP to officially amend its bed-blocking protocol.

According to a new circular issued on November 17, Covid patients will be referred to private hospitals only if government Covid facilities reach 90% bed occupancy.

“All bed-blocking for Covid positive cases taken up by the zonal command and control centres... for general and HDU beds shall be restricted to government hospitals and government medical colleges only,” the circular states, clarifying that ICU and ICU-ventilator beds will also be “preferably provided at government-run facilities”, except in exceptionally critical cases.

Currently, private hospitals have 20% occupancy, while medical colleges have a 9% bed occupancy. Of the 9,431 beds set aside for Covid-19 care in both these categories of private medical centres, only 1,364 beds have been occupied.

The BBMP specified that the situation has been brought about by a dramatic decline in Covid-19 cases. From the start of October to October 15, the city had 63,180 Covid-19 cases on its hands, of which only 18,364 (or 29%) sought or were admitted into hospitals. In the other half of October, patient numbers dropped to 37,778, of which 10,972 (or 29%) were hospitalised.

From November 1 to 15, the city had 19,355 cases, of which 30% or 5,894 required hospitalisation, which constitutes 50.8% of 11,593 beds set aside for Covid-19 as of November 16. 

Change in strategy

The change in strategy to fill up government facilities first was prompted by a letter from the Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust (SAST) to the BBMP commissioner and the Chief Secretary. 

BBMP Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad said the move would allow the government to save unnecessary expenditure.

“When we have all the facilities available at government hospitals, there is no need to send patients to private hospitals and then pay them,” he said.

However, the commissioner added that the state government is yet to decide if Covid-19 beds in private hospitals would be relinquished to private hospitals for reallocation to non-Covid services.

Another government official suggested that the beds will not be relinquished, as the government wants to be prepared for any increase in cases in the days and weeks to come.

“If we give them back the beds now just because the Covid-19 numbers have come down, getting the beds back in the time of a crisis could be challenging,” the official told DH.