The rigorous checking of all residents and fever clinics in Dharavi seem to be paying off as cases fall in the…Read More
MUMBAI: A combination of factors such as inadequate ICU beds, shortage of lifesaving drugs and failure of patients to seek medical help in time could be pushing up the city’s Covid-19 toll in June, say doctors.
A whopping 675 deaths have been reported in the 11 days of June compared to 989 deaths in May. The June fatality rate is nearly 5%, significantly higher than the cumulative mortality rate of 3.61%.
BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani pointed out while 97 deaths were reported in two consecutive days, the figure included deaths added from previous days. On Wednesday, 20 deaths were from earlier, while out of 97 deaths on Thursday, 43 had occurred before June 7.
Despite taking into account book-keeping, the mortality figures are worrying. An intensivist from a leading south Mumbai hospital said the supply of anti-arthritis medicine tocilizumab, which has been effective in controlling the viral load and modulating the immune system to fight Covid-19, has become erratic since May-end. “Another vital drug Remdesivir is still not available though it’s been cleared for use on Covid-19 patients,” said the doctor. Four to five patients are dying in ICUs every day as “babus sit and do paperwork”, he said.
A senior doctor from a civic hospital said many patients are reaching hospitals late. “For reasons we can’t fathom, many patients are coming after 8-9 days have lapsed. Once a patient goes on ventilator, the battle is nearly impossible to win… A delay and the unavailability of ICU beds at that point could be lethal for a patient,” said the doctor, adding that the city is critically low on ICU beds.
According to BMC data, 99% of the 1,200 Covid-19 ICU beds are occupied. Another doctor agreed a surge in deaths is expected when a city has exhausted ICU beds. “Covid is a very resource-intensive disease to treat. We can build ICUs overnight, but how will BMC create the expertise overnight?” he asked.
Dr Avinash Supe, former dean of KEM Hospital who heads the state committee looking at Covid-19 deaths, argued many patients who died had underlying conditions. “Patients walk in with sugar levels of over 500,” said Supe, adding many were overweight or obese.
According to Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state task force, the deaths are perhaps of patients who got hospitalised in the latter half of May. “Between May 15 and 31, there was an avalanche of cases and hospitals were truly grappling. But we are past that phase. Cases are settling now,” he said.
Joshi said a vulnerable group could be those in home quarantine. “Between day 7 and 14, these patients should be careful about their oxygen concentration. They may have ‘happy hypoxia’ (low oxygen levels that doesn’t impair people),” he said. The descent from happy hypoxia to critical stage is very short.