On May 14, when daily Covid cases had spiked to 20,486, hospital bed occupancy had also peaked to over 40% state-wide. On that day, the state had 20,043 Covid beds. On Wednesday, with 869 fresh Covid cases reported in Bengal, bed occupancy has also fallen to around 5.4%. But Covid beds across facilities in Bengal remain at 23,947. State officials say this would be further augmented with beds for children and their mothers.
The Beliaghata Infectious Diseases hospital had ramped up its Covid bed count to 315 during the second-wave surge. Even as all beds remained occupied during the surge, the hospital on Wednesday had only 21 patients. “There is a sharp drop in Covid patient count,” said hospital principal Anima Haldar. “But we are keeping all Covid beds intact, in view of a possible third wave. In fact, we are trying to improve our infrastructure.”
At MR Bangur Hospital — Kolkata’s biggest state-run Covid facility — only 31 of the 580 beds were full on Wednesday. “Currently, there is a lull in Covid patient inflow, and we are taking this as an opportunity to revamp our facility,” said Sisir Naskar, the hospital superintendent. “On directions from Swasthya Bhavan, we have increased our bed strength to 713 so that we are prepared well before the third wave strikes.”
The Bengal government had scaled up Covid beds to 24,796 on June 16. It let go of some last month. Likewise, there were 3,613 ICU beds on June 16, which has been marginally reduced to 2,861.
“We cannot afford another bed crisis that we saw during the second wave. Therefore, we need to keep all Covid beds aside as the third wave could hit around September,” said a member of the government’s expert committee.
In addition, the state plans to add 1,300 paediatric ICU beds, 350 SNCU beds and 10,000 general beds for women at government hospitals. The government decided to have more than 2,000 PICUs (paediatric intensive care units) and over 700 NICUs (neo-natal intensive care units) at the existing Covid facilities, apart from 10,000 oxygenated beds, where mothers could be treated along with their children. Doctors, too, are undergoing intensive training, keeping in mind the imminent third wave.