Official data in Tamil Nadu’s medical bulletin show a sharp increase in the percentage of COVID-19 patients getting hospitalised.
Analysis of data from the past week shows that while 27% active patients were in hospitals a week ago, it jumped to 35.7% on Saturday. The jump has been particularly high in the last two days. This means one in every three COVID-19 patient is in hospital. The data also show that nearly 25% or one-fourth of all patients are in intensive care or oxygen-supported beds.
While the State added around 11,000 new active cases between Wednesday and Saturday, it added an almost similar number of hospital admissions. Tamil Nadu started providing data on hospitalisations last week.
The State’s bed capacity shows a befuddling trend — while efforts are on to increase it, the numbers show a decline in capacity between Wednesday and Friday, before seeing a marginal increase on Saturday. A total of 67,649 beds were available on Friday. It dropped by nearly 7,000 to 61,050 on Friday and then increased to 63,719 again on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the percentage of vacant beds witnessed a steady decline over the past week from 48.3% of beds on May 1 to just 21.7% on May 8. Among ICU and oxygen-supported beds, only 13.7% are vacant.
An official from the Health and Family Welfare Department said the fluctuation in bed capacity was probably due to gaps in updating data from all hospitals.
On increase in the percentage of hospitalisations, P. Kuganantham, senior epidemiologist and former health officer of the Greater Chennai Corporation, said the late detection of cases could be a reason why more patients were requiring hospitalisation. “This a failure of the system. Earlier this year, we became a little complacent, and personnel and systems in place were largely dismantled. We should have retained the capacity, at least for another six months to one year,” he said.
Another reason could be the hospitalisation of people who really do not need it, particularly in private facilities.
Prabhdeep Kaur, Deputy Director, National Institute of Epidemiology-ICMR, said the percentage of active cases in hospitals need not be the bigger worry at this time. “What is more important is our bed capacity and whether we are able to ensure beds for all those in need,” she said.
A factor for a higher percentage of people in hospitals could be the lack of adequate testing. “We are not detecting a large number of infections. If we are testing only symptomatic and sick cases, then naturally a higher percentage of detected cases will need hospitalisation,” she said.
She stressed the need for ramping up testing, particularly in the rural areas, to proactively detect and contain the spread, and to reduce fatalities.
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