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Private hospitals say they need both ventilators and manpower

Karnataka: The State government recently announced that it will let out ventilators to private medical establishments for government-referred patients. However, private hospitals now say they do not have the manpower to handle the additional equipment.

Sources said that of the 2,050 ventilators the State received from the Centre, nearly 300 will be rented out to private hospitals.

With more critical COVID-19 patients requiring ICU beds with ventilators, the State Health Department on September 23 decided to lend ventilators to private establishments in the State for six months, to be mandatorily used for government-referred patients. The ventilator charges of ₹500 per patient per day will be deducted from the amount (₹10,000) fixed for every ventilator bed.

Deputy Commissioners have been asked to submit the requirement of ventilators received from private hospitals in their districts. The hospitals will have to get into an agreement with the Health Department on this.

While welcoming the move, heads of private hospitals now say they are facing an acute shortage of manpower. “We need a 1:1 nurse patient ratio in ICUs. At any given point of time over 15% of our nursing staff are infected and are either under quarantine or treatment. With the existing staff, we are barely managing,” said R. Ravindra, president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA). The association will discuss the issue with the government. “We are glad that government has responded to our request for ventilators made in June. But the manpower shortage has further worsened now and it would be great if the government provides us trained nurses for the ICUs,” Dr. Ravindra said.

Sources in PHANA said more than ventilators what the hospitals need now are High Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC) machines for oxygen therapy. “Seven months into the pandemic, we have learned that HFNC machines are more helpful than ventilators,” a doctor said.

Meanwhile, health activists have questioned the government’s move, especially when government hospitals do not have adequate ventilators. “The move is shocking, especially when people have been repeatedly asking for better care in public hospitals. Instead of investing in government hospitals, the government is further short-changing them,” said Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and researcher. “In private hospitals out-of-pocket expenditure is high even for patients referred from the government,” she added. – The Hindu