Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, on March 30, 2021, said only 2-3 private hospitals and no government hospital faced shortage of COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators.
But, FactChecker found his statement to be incorrect.
As many as 14 private hospitals and one central government hospital have run out of COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators, according to the information available on Delhi government's Corona mobile application on March 30, 2021. This application shows the latest availability of beds and ventilators in COVID-19 designated hospitals in the national capital.
All COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators in the central government's Northern Railway hospital are occupied. Private hospitals such as Shree Agarsain International Hospital in Rohini, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in Okhla, Fortis Hospital (in Shalimar Bagh and Vasant Kunj), Max SS Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, Venkateshwar Hospital in Dwarka, Indian Spinal Injury Centre in Vasant Kunj and Maharaja Agrasen Hospital in Punjabi Bagh face the same condition.
Other hospitals which have run out of such beds include MGS Hospital in Punjabi Bagh, Metro Hospital in Preet Vihar, Ayushman Hospital in Dwarka, Maharaja Agarsain Multispecialty Hospital in Narela, Mool Chand Kalrati Ram Hospital in Lajpat Nagar and Navjeevan Hospital in Pitampura, showed the application.
When checked the next day (on March 31, 2021), the number of hospitals that had run out of COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators had increased to 16 hospitals (15 private and 1 government). Addition to the list: National Heart Institute, East of Kailash.
FactChecker reached out to all these private hospitals but only received a response from Max SS Hospital in Shalimar Bagh. The hospital's nodal officer, who didn't want his name mentioned, confirmed that there were no COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators available in the hospital.
"The current surge in COVID-19 is because people have become complacent and are not following any norms," Dr Rommel Tickoo, associate director, internal medicine at Max Healthcare, New Delhi, told FactChecker. "The need of the hour is aggressive testing and tracing of contacts apart from ramping up the vaccination. There is a shortage of ICU beds in top hospitals but the government is looking into it and will be increasing the number of ICU beds in a few hospitals to tackle the COVID upsurge," added Tickoo.
According to the application, 47 out of 86 hospitals (private and government) in the city have less than five COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators. And, amongst these, 24 hospitals have only one bed.
Of the 10 government hospitals in the city, six have 10 or more vacant COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators. With 161 out of 200 beds vacant, Rajeev Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital in Dilshad Garden has the highest number of vacant COVID-19 ICU beds with ventilators.
"As of now we are hearing about the shortage mainly from private hospitals. This could also be a deliberate shortage because private sector beds are under price control. An ICU bed, which otherwise earns them Rs 15,000-20,000 a night, when converted to a COVID-19 facility falls under a fixed capped price. So, it's not in the interest to keep more COVID-19 beds. That could be a reason for showing no availability in beds," Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, public policy and health systems expert, told FactChecker.
In all, nearly 70% (4,016 out of 5,815) COVID-19 beds are vacant in Delhi. This comprises 62% ICU beds with ventilators and 68% without ventilators, according to the Delhi Corona app.
"Currently I am not worried because most of the government facilities show enough number of designated COVID-19 ICU beds available. Mainly we will know of a shortage when people start to say that they were refused in both private and government hospitals. Since Delhi dealt with more than 10,000 cases a day in June and July last year, the government should be able to manage the rise in cases now as well," Lahariya concluded.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on March 30 also tweeted that the number of beds reserved for COVID-19 were being increased in few hospitals in Delhi and assured that the government was taking all the steps necessary to improve the situation.
On March 30, Delhi reported 992 new cases, totalling to 7,429 active COVID-19 cases in the city, according to the Delhi State Health Bulletin.