As the daily caseload of active coronavirus infection is increasing at an alarming rate, the number of people in need of Intensive Care Units (ICU) is also on the rise, leading to shortage of beds in ICUs and ventilators at COVID-19 designated hospitals.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, 244 people have been admitted to ICUs of various hospitals across the country while 43 people are on ventilator support at present.

Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, a COVID-19 designated hospital in the valley, has been facing problems to adjust the ever increasing influx of patients as all of its 20 ICU beds and six ventilators are occupied.

With a rapid rise in the number of new cases, the number of moderate cases, which need oxygen supply, and severe cases, which need intensive care and ventilator support, have also been increasing rapidly.

Though ICUs are essential for the treatment of coronavirus infected patients, shortage of the same has hit hospitals hard. “The risk of infected people dying due to the lack of oxygen supply, ICU, and ventilator support has increased,” said Dr Santa Kumar Das, coordinator of the COVID-19 management team at the TU Teaching Hospital in Maharajgunj.

Doctors say serious patients admitted in ICUs and placed on ventilator support need several days to recover, as the virus severely affects their lungs and other vital organs.

However, according to Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, a chief specialist at the Health Ministry, the government has decided to discharge patients within 10 days of admittance to reduce the pressure on hospitals.

As all 18 ICU beds in Patan Hospital are occupied, many patients are being treated in general wards.

Dr Bimal Pandey, assistant professor at Patan Academy of Health Sciences, said, “It has already been five days since we started facing shortage of beds in ICUs. We have not been able to admit people referred from other hospitals as the patients already admitted to our hospital are in the need of ICU beds.”

“About 12 people who are in need of ICU beds are currently being treated in the Hospital’s general ward for want of vacant beds. We are shifting such patients to ICU only when the beds become vacant,” Pandey said.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, there are 2,600 beds in ICUs and 900 ventilators in health facilities across the country.

However, hospitals have been saying that the number of ICU beds and ventilators are insufficient as these ICU beds and ventilators are also needed for other critically ill patients.