As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, admissions to intensive care units (ICU) have become extremely difficult without pulling strings, an online survey conducted by community social media platform LocalCircles suggest. Only four percent of the respondents who had someone in their network needing an ICU bed for COVID-19 care could manage it without any recommendations, the survey reveals. While 78 percent of the respondents had to use connections and clout to secure ICU beds, seven percent followed up extensively, and four percent respondents had to bribe.
Of the 17,000+ responses that were received across 211 districts of India, 55 percent did not have any need for COVID-19 ICU admissions and hence were kept out. The analysis was carried out on the basis of other respondents. Overall, 65 percent respondents were men. While 52 percent of respondents were from tier 1 cities, 26 percent and 22 percent respectively were from tier 2 and tier 3, 4 and rural districts, a LocalCircles statement said.
The survey also highlighted the case of Delhi where respondents complained that hospital beds were not available even when the Delhi Government's app Delhi Corona shows ICU bed available in some hospitals. To the question whether it should be made mandatory for all hospitals to list on their websites and entrances the real time ICU bed availability for COVID-19 patients, 92 percent responded favourably. Only seven percent voted against it.
The respondents' feedback also suggests that people with clout and connections are able to get an ICU bed even if they have mild symptoms while those without such ability, including healthcare workers with severe symptoms, are being denied an ICU bed or being delayed.
The respondents want the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the State Health Departments to issue standard operating procedures to hospitals to make ICU bed availability more transparent through real time display of information on their website and hospital entrances. They also called for increasing the capacity of ICU beds.
The survey was conducted 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, the online platform said. LocalCircles is to submit a copy of the survey findings to the central and state health authorities for appropriate action.