Official data from Tamil Nadu’s medical bulletin shows a sharp increase in the percentage of COVID-19 patients hospitalized.
Analysis of data from last week shows that while 27% of active patients were hospitalized a week ago, it rose to 35.7% on Saturday. The jump has been particularly high over the past two days. This means that one in three COVID-19 patients is hospitalized. Data also shows that nearly 25% or a quarter of all patients are in intensive care or in oxygen beds.
While the state added about 11,000 new active cases between Wednesday and Saturday, it added an almost similar number of hospitalizations. Tamil Nadu started providing data on hospitalizations last week.
The state’s bed capacity is showing a bewildering trend – with efforts underway to increase it, numbers show a drop in capacity between Wednesday and Friday, before seeing a marginal increase on Saturday. A total of 67,649 beds were available on Friday. It fell nearly 7,000 to 61,050 on Friday, then climbed back to 63,719 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the percentage of vacant beds has seen a steady decline over the past week, from 48.3% of beds on May 1 to just 21.7% on May 8. Among intensive care and oxygen beds, only 13.7% are vacant.
An official with the Department of Health and Family Welfare said the fluctuation in bed capacity was likely due to gaps in updating data from all hospitals.
On the increase in the percentage of hospitalizations, P. Kuganantham, senior epidemiologist and former health officer of the Greater Chennai Corporation, said late detection of cases could be a reason more patients required hospitalization. “It’s a failure of the system. Earlier this year we got a little complacent and the staff and systems in place were largely dismantled. We should have kept the capacity, at least for another six months to a year, ”he said.
Another reason could be the hospitalization of people who really do not need it, especially in private establishments.
Prabhdeep Kaur, deputy director of the National Institute of Epidemiology-ICMR, said the percentage of active cases in hospitals should not be the biggest concern at this time. “What’s more important is our bed capacity and our ability to provide beds to all who need them,” she said.
A factor of a higher percentage of people in hospitals could be the lack of adequate tests. “We are not detecting a large number of infections. If we only test symptomatic and sick cases, then naturally a higher percentage of detected cases will require hospitalization, ”she said.
She stressed the need to step up testing, especially in rural areas, to proactively detect and contain the spread and reduce the number of deaths.