Kerala will have few ICUs, ventilators to spare if daily COVID-19 count is not capped soon

An elderly man and woman wait for their turn to get vaccinated against coronavirus at a vaccination centre in Kottayam. Photo: Gibi Sam

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is likely to slip into a crisis if the daily COVID-19 cases cross 20,000 as the State too has entered the second wave of the pandemic as in other parts of the country.

The State government estimates that it would be able to handle the situation even if the daily COVID-19 cases reach up to 20,000 within two weeks. But if the number of cases does not reduce gradually thereafter, it could pose a severe challenge.

Even if the daily count of fresh COVID-19 cases touches 20,000, the ICU and ventilator facilities can be provided. But if this surge does not drop within a week, then the treatment facilities would be in jeopardy. In such a scenario, if the treatment of people suffering from other diseases could be affected, and the mortality rate could also increase.

Though Kerala had the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country during the first phase of the pandemic last year, the State then managed to keep the death toll under check.

Drastic measures include mass testing

To prevent the daily cases from touching the 15,000-mark, the State has decided to test 2.50 lakh people in two days. By testing a large number of people at once and putting the infected in quarantine, authorities hope that the virus spread could be reduced by and large.

But as other States have started imposing strict restrictions, including lockdown, several Keralites outside might return home. If their quarantine is not strictly enforced, the coronavirus infection that causes COVID-19 could spread rapidly.

Divers of lorries that transport goods from other States to Kerala also pose a challenge.

The State government has decided against setting up new Covid First Line Treatment Centres (CFLTC); instead, more government hospitals in all districts will be turned into dedicated COVID-19 treatment centres. The policy in this regard is being changed as satisfactory treatment cannot be provided at the CFLTCs as they have limited facilities.

The District Medical Officers have been instructed to encourage those without any symptoms to stay at their homes and monitor them.

ICU, ventilator facilities

Kerala has sufficient ICU and ventilator facilities to meet the current case load. However, if the spread of cororonavirus infection is not contained within two weeks these would prove to be insufficient.

Of the 2,714 ICUs in the government hospitals in the state, patients have been admitted to 1,405. Of this, 458 are COVID-19 cases while 947 suffer from other diseases.

Out of the 1,423 ventilator 162 support COVID-19 patients, while 215 are for patients suffering from other diseases. A total of 1,046 ventilators is currently unoccupied.

Government hospitals in the Kozhikode district have the most number of ICUs, 454. Of this, the COVID-19 patients have been admitted to 26 ICUs, while patients suffering from other diseases are undergoing treatment in 232. But in Thiruvananthapuram, COVID-19 patients occupy 102 of the 405 ICUs. The number of other patients is at 162. In Wayanad, only eight of the 117 ICUs are being used by those infected by cororonavirus.

Of the 6,213 ICUs in the private hospitals, only 286 have COVID-19 patients. Of the 1579 ventilators in the private sector, 59 provide support to COVID-19 patients. In the private sector, Ernakulam has the most number of ICUs (1,151) and ventilators (360). There are 1,017 ICUs in Thrissur and 192 ventilators in Thrissur. And Kozhikode has 538 ICUs and 251 ventilators. 

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