Preparation for third covid wave: Panchkula adds beds, O2 units; special focus on rural areas, paediatric wards

In April, the Panchkula Civil Hospital had begun the construction of an oxygen plant with a capacity to produce 1,000 litres of oxygen per minute.

As the daily Covid count dips and the second wave of the pandemic recedes, the Panchkula health department- which was caught lackadaisical at the surge of cases in April this year- has begun preparations for the third wave with the addition of beds, ventilators, oxygen units as well as ICUs at the Covid care centres in the district.

“This wave has showed that early intervention and preparation is necessary. We expected the second wave to be similar to the first and we were caught off-guard. Now, looking back, it seems that timely addition of BIPAPs and strengthening ICU facilities could have helped and thus, we have already started preparations for the third wave,” says CMO Dr Jasjeet Kaur.

In April, the Panchkula Civil Hospital had begun the construction of an oxygen plant with a capacity to produce 1,000 litres of oxygen per minute. Although the work of building the oxygen tank was initiated in January this year, for a total budget of Rs 1.7 crore, with an aim to make it functional in February itself– the project was delayed by the private company contracted to do the job.

The plant, says Dr Kaur, “should hopefully be ready soon, much in advance to the arrival of the third wave.”

The setting up of another tank for the storage of liquid oxygen has also been sanctioned by the Panchkula district administration. “In this wave, our problem remained that sometimes while we got surplus oxygen, we did not have enough storage capacity, so we had to send it to other districts for buffer or storage,” says Dr Kaur.

Rampantly increasing the capacity for treating Covid-19 patients here, the district administration has added 528 more beds to the hospitals and health centres. While only 301 beds, including 80 without oxygen, 190 with oxygen and 31 ICUs, had been reserved for Covid-19 patients at the onset of the second wave— as many as 829 Covid beds, including 268 without oxygen, 351 with oxygen and 110 ICUs, remain functional in Panchkula now.

Particularly fearing a rise in Covid-19 cases in rural areas in the next surge, the district has begun the work of adding more beds at the PHCs and CHCs here. “A 30-bed oxygen facility has been set up at a government college at Kalka and we are further moving down to periphery areas. There is an apprehension that in the next wave, rural areas which had remained out of harm’s way till now might be affected equally, if not more. Raipuurrani Hospital has also been provided an additional 30-bed oxygen facility. Meanwhile, Nirankari bhawan, Kisan bhawan and another bhawan at Amravati has been converted to Covid centres,” says Dr Kaur.

The district is now looking into the concept of ‘community isolation centres’ where in each sector, block and township will have its own isolation centres with all basic Covid medicare facilities, including oxygen concentrators among others . “We are testing this concept at Sunrise Tower and will now move out to other places. If very high numbers are reported in the third wave, this will help us. We are also going to add a few mini-oxygen generation plants at the rural centres to make them self-sufficient. We are working on that,” she says.

With several experts sounding the alarm that the third wave might affect the children more adversely, Panchkula district administration is also focusing on the Pediatric High Dependency Units (HDUs). “We do not know whether it had an impact on children or not because we do not have any clear instructions or observations. But just to be prepared, we have started adding beds at Civil Hospital in Sector 6. We will have close to 20 beds for pediatric age groups,” says Dr Kaur.

The district has also added five BIPAP machines and five additional ventilators, while working on providing oxygen concentrators to rural facilities. “For the time being, this should be ok. But we will need beds at tertiary facilities. Panchkula has always had to depend on private hospitals for tertiary healthcare,” says the CMO. In absence of any medical college, and with only one civil hospital to cater to patients from across Panchkula and even parts of Haryana, the 110 ICU units fail to meet the demand for critical care health infrastructure. At least three private hospitals have remained a prime source for tertiary care in the district till now.

With the rise in the beds and critical care units, the demand for trained staff has also increased. “I have asked the PMO for additional ICU staff. Be it anesthetists, medical officers trained for ICUs, staff nurses for ICUs or ICU technicians, we will hire the staff required,” says Dr Kaur.

The staff will be hired on the grants received from MLA and MP funds, with the approval of higher authorities, as and when required. “Temporary staff can be hired if our own is falling short. We have been allocated funds for the same,” says Dr Kaur.

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