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900 more ICU beds for kids as Delhi prepares for next COVID wave

This month, hospitals run by the Delhi government will create 640 paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) beds, while those run by the Centre, the municipal corporations and private bodies will add another 263 such beds under the government’s plan to prepare for a possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. These will be part of a total of 2,328 beds for children created across hospitals, said a Delhi government order issued on August 31.

After the huge second wave of infection, when Delhi saw daily cases peak to over 28,000, the government set up a committee to prepare for a third wave. It recommended the creation of over 37,000 Covid beds, including 12,000 for ICU. But as children might be more vulnerable to the third wave and there aren’t enough ICU beds for them in the capital, the committee recommended the creation of additional infrastructure for them.

Lok Nayak hospital, to take one example, is one of the biggest hospitals run by the Delhi government. There were just 20 ICU beds for children before the pandemic. Now, the hospital is working towards adding 150 more.

“After the upgrade, we will have 170 ICU beds for children. The beds will be the same that the hospital has, but there is a need for special equipment for children,” said a senior doctor of Lok Nayak hospital on condition of anonymity.

The order factors that in as it has ordered the creation of new beds with ventilators, intubation kits, medicines and other such things appropriate for children and babies.

At Burari hospital, which was operationalised last year for treatment of Covid-19 patients, 85 beds will be earmarked for children. Of these, 20 will be ICU beds. “All major hospitals will earmark nearly 10 to 15% of the beds for children. These beds might be used for adults also, if needed, but they will be equipped with ventilators and other equipment that can be used for children. We will arrange for medicines and food fit for children, and also train our staff to treat them. We will also make provisions for admitting one Covid-positive family member along with the children,” said a senior doctor from the hospital, requesting anonymity.

Thirteen existing hospitals and new blocks in Delhi government hospitals will add 1,475 Covid-19 beds for children, of which 640 will be ICU beds. Dr Arun Gupta, president of Delhi Medical Council and one of the members of the aforementioned Delhi government committee, said, “We recommended creating hybrid beds that can be used for adults as well as paediatric patients. This is because there is uncertainty over whether there will be a third wave and whether it will affect children disproportionately. However, we will be prepared for any scenario.”

He added, “There has always been a shortage of PICU and NICU (neonatal ICU) beds, especially in the government hospitals. A 20-bed ward would usually have 30 children and these are the children born within the hospitals; it is very difficult for other children born in private hospitals to get transferred into a government hospital. The Delhi government had plans to increase the NICU and PICU beds in their forthcoming hospitals anyway, the pandemic has sped up the process.” Hindustan Times

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