Only 4% of those who needed a COVID ICU bed were able to get it through the routine process, 78% had to use connections and clout
- • 92% say it should be made mandatory for all hospitals to list real time ICU bed availability on their websites and building entrances
September 21, 2020, New Delhi: A few weeks back India overtook Brazil to become the second most novel Coronavirus infected country in the world and at the current pace, it may just be a few weeks before India overtakes USA to become the country with the highest number of COVID cases. The number of COVID positive cases to date in India are almost 5.5 million and the country has been recording on average over 90,000 cases daily for the last two weeks. So much so, that it took just 11 days for the last 10 lakh recorded cases. Many experts have said that the second wave of COVID-19 has already hit the country and that is why the daily cases load has shot up. With the change in management approach and those asymptomatic mostly staying home, hospitals now are seeing more critical patients than they did in May-June this year. With the rise in critical cases, the availability of ICU beds has drastically reduced, compared to a month back.
After receiving many complaints from citizens from across the country about their family friends or associates not being able to find an ICU bed at a Government or private hospital, LocalCircles decided to conduct a survey to get citizen pulse on the issue, and received over 17,000 responses from citizens located in over 211 districts of the country.
In the first question, LocalCircles asked citizens about the experiences of people in their social network in regard to getting a COVID-19 ICU bed. To ensure that the right feedback is sought, citizens were requested to make calls to their contacts in case they were unaware themselves about the detailed experience of their contact in getting an ICU bed.
Only 4% of those who needed a COVID ICU bed were able to get it through the routine process; 78% had to use connections and clout
In response, 55% citizens said that they did not have any person in their network who needed a COVID ICU bed. These respondents were taken out of the sample to only analyse experiences of citizens who had someone in their network needing a COVID-19 bed. When this sample was analysed, 38% respondents said they had to use clout/connections to secure the ICU bed while 7% said they had to follow up extensively to secure the ICU bed. 40% said that they had to use their clout/connections, follow up extensively and they also had to escalate via social media or complain to Government to secure the ICU bed. 7% said they had to bribe (cash or kind) hospital/government officials to secure the ICU bed, while only 4% said they got the ICU bed without any of the above. Another 4% said they did not get an ICU bed at all.
This shows that only 4% of those who needed a COVID ICU bed were able to get it through the routine process, while 78% had to use connections and clout.
In Delhi for instance, patients complained that the Delhi Government’s app Delhi Corona shows ICU bed available in some hospitals however when they call that hospital, they are told that the bed is not available. The Delhi Government also recently asked 33 big private hospitals in the state to reserve 80% of their total ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, however if that will actually be implemented by the hospitals remains to be seen as an association of healthcare providers said that it would challenge the order in the high court because such a move would hamper the treatment of non COVID patients with critical ailments.
In the next question, citizens were asked given the ICU beds shortage for COVID-19, should it be made mandatory for all hospitals to list on their websites and entrances the real time ICU bed availability. A whopping 92% citizens responded in its favour while only 7% voted against it.
92% citizens say that it should be mandatory for all hospitals to post and update real time COVID ICU bed availability on their website and building entrance
According to a lot of citizens, those with clout and connections are able to get an ICU bed even if they have mild symptoms while many common citizens including healthcare workers with severe symptoms are being denied an ICU bed or being granted the same much later. Several examples have been shared.
According to people, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the State Health Departments must issue the right SOPs so hospitals make ICU bed availability more transparent by displaying this information in real time (as it changes) on their website and building entrances so the only criteria for who gets an ICU bed is the patient’s condition. Also, given the sudden spurt in the number of COVID cases in India over last 2 months, people feel it is imperative that states work towards increasing their capacity of ICU beds as the need for them will rise further in the coming weeks as India goes into festive season in most parts of the country.
LocalCircles will submit a copy of this report to senior members of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the chief secretaries of all states for their urgent consideration.
17,000+ responses were received across 211 districts of India. 65% respondents were men while 35% respondents were women. 52% respondents were from tier 1, 26% from tier 2 and 22% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. They survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.