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While ventilator support in private hospitals is out of reach for many given their exorbitant costs, government hospitals in the city are battling a severe shortage of the life support systems. Monday’s tragic case of one-and-a-half-year-old Gagana Venkatesh, who died after her parents shuttled between hospitals to get her emergency care, highlights the plight of hundreds of patients who face the same problem.
Private hospitals charge a fee anywhere between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 30,000 a day for an ICU bed. Ventilator charges and other additional facilities that the patient may need will only take this up. Although the same facility is available for less than Rs. 1,500 in a government hospital, the problem is that the ICU beds and ventilators are always full because of high demand.
This situation often compels patients to shuttle between hospitals. For instance, Srirampuram resident R. Sundar first admitted his mother to a private hospital in Rajajinagar, but wanted to shift to a government facility as he was unable to bear the hospital bill. Unable to find an ICU bed in any government hospitals, Mr. Sundar had to finally admit her in a charitable hospital. “At least the cost in a charitable hospital is less than what I paid in the private hospital,” he added.
So where do all the poor patients who cannot afford critical care in a private hospital go to? Can the problem be resolved by adding more ICU beds and ventilators in government hospitals? “It is more important to strengthen and optimally use the existing facilities. Merely adding more ventilators will not serve the purpose. To run these facilities, the hospital should also have adequate number of supporting staff, including nurses and technicians,” said C.N. Manjunath, Director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research.
P. Satishchandra, Director of NIMHANS, said that although it was easy to add more number of ventilators to the ICU, running the facility with adequate number of supporting staff would be a costly affair. “The hidden costs of running an ICU bed, excluding the doctors’ fee, will be around Rs. 10,000 a day while we charge only Rs. 1,000 a day,” he said. Sudarshan Ballal, Medical Director of Manipal Hospitals, who admitted that critical care in a private hospital is expensive, said no patient should be refused treatment during emergencies just because he is not able to pay. “There should be some kind of cooperation and coordination among hospitals irrespective of whether they are private or government at least till a patient who needs critical care is stabilised. Only then can everyone who needs critical care get timely medical attention,” he said.
From: The Hindu