In tune with the prevailing grim situation across the nation and the State, the district is also finding it difficult to grapple with the surge in COVID-19 cases.
On March 1, the total active cases were just 24, and by May 2, the number has gone over the 12,000-mark. In the last 60 days, the district recorded over 25,000 new cases and over 120 deaths.
The district has been recording close to 1,500 cases per day on an average over the last one week and this stretching the limits for the bed strength in the district.
“Every day there is a demand for about 100 ICU beds or beds with some kind of oxygen supply and this has become a real test for us to stretch the limits,” observed District Collector V. Vinay Chand. “Each bed with oxygen once allotted to a patient is occupied by him or her, at least for a period of 10 days, and with the growing demand for 100 beds on a daily basis, it is really pushing our bed limits,” he said.
The total bed strength in the district is around 10,000, including both in the private and the government hospitals, and out of which 7,000 beds have already been taken up for the COVID-19 treatment.
Out of the 7,000 beds, about 4,000 have some kind of oxygen supply, which includes about 1,000 ICU beds.
“We need to oxygenate the remaining 3,000 beds and efforts are on to get it done, at least to provide bedside oxygen cylinders,” said district COVID Special Officer and Principal of Andhra Medical College P.V. Sudhakar.
Apart from the 4,000 beds with oxygen that is at the disposal of the district administration, the authorities concerned need at least another 5,000 beds with oxygen supply on an urgent basis to mitigate the situation, it is learnt.
Adding to the woes of shortage of beds, shortage of oxygen has become a double whammy for the district administration.
Almost every hospital, has been suffering from shortage of oxygen, which is a unique situation, considering the fact that Visakhapatnam is the largest producer of LMO (Liquid Medical Oxygen) in the State.
While the requirement for Visakhapatnam is only about 60 to 70 tonnes per day, Visakhapatnam Steel Plant alone produces around 170 tonnes on a daily basis.
Lack of planning
The shortage is not due to lack of production or availability, it is due to lack of planning, timely delivery and adequate storage capacity.
It is learnt that most of the private hospitals are putting up the request for refill in the last minute, as the tanks come near to drying up. If planned with a lead time of about four to five hours, things can improve, said a senior officer in the district administration.
To mitigate the crisis, the district administration has formed a four-member committee to oversee the oxygen requirement of the hospitals and all indents for oxygen are routed through this committee. And the committee has observed that requests are coming late and that is upsetting the delivery time.
Another reason is lack of storage, with the demand being very high, 24-hour back-up storage is not happening.
With the shortage of beds and oxygen, straining the administration and health infrastructure, many feel that it is time to heed to the advice of AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria and go for a severe lockdown.
It now appears that a lockdown is inevitable, considering the speed and quantum of spread, which is nearing 40% positivity rate, said a senior doctor in KGH.
Only a strong lockdown can break the chain of spread. And during the lockdown period, the people already affected and hospitalised can be treated and discharged, he said.