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India will need an extra 5 lakh ICU beds, 2 lakh nurses and 1.5 lakh doctors in the next few weeks.

At present, India has only 75,000 to 90,000 ICU beds and almost all are already occupied – when the second wave of the pandemic hasn’t even reached its peak yet.

India is reporting about 3.5 lakh cases a day, and some experts say the number could go up to 5 lakh cases daily at its peak.

For every patient who is tested positive, there are 5 to 10 people who are positive but not tested. That means more than 15 to 20 lakh people are getting infected every day in India even now. Statistically, five per cent of the positive patients need an ICU bed, irrespective of their age. On an average, a patient in ICU spends at least 10 days there.

So there is a need to create at least five lakh additional ICU beds in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, beds do not treat patients. India need nurses, doctors and paramedics in that order because managing Covid patients successfully in ICUs depends mostly on nurses, not doctors.

Even before the start of the pandemic, government hospitals across the country had a shortage of 78 per cent of medical specialists.

Now, India need to produce at least two lakh nurses and at least one and a half lakh doctors in the next few weeks who are dedicated to managing Covid for the next one year. Because the current pandemic is likely to last for about 4 to 5 months. And then India should be prepared for the third wave.

Solutions for meeting the need

  •  India has about 2.20 lakh nursing students who have finished their three-year GNM (General Nursing and Midwifery) or four-year B Sc courses in various nursing schools and colleges across the country who are preparing for their exam scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.

  •  The Ministry of Health, along with the Indian Nursing Council, should consider these students as graduates and deploy them to work in Covid ICU wards for one year, after which they will be given graduation certificates.

  •  They could also be given preference over others in government jobs. Take the approach of drafting for the armed forces when there is an impending war with the enemy country … This is not peacetime. It is wartime.

  •  There are also 1.30 lakh young doctors today, working not in Covid ICUs but preparing for NEET exams to get into post-graduate courses where only 35,000 positions are available. An online test for NEET should be conducted immediately and results declared in a few days.

  •  After allowing the 35,000 seats, there will be still one lakh young doctors who are left out, who didn’t get the PG seats. They should be offered a chance during the next year’s PG selection if they work in the Covid ICU for one year.

  •  Additionally, there are about 25,000 doctors who have finished their postgraduate training and haven’t yet appeared for the exam. This batch of medical specialists should be told that they can skip the exam and get the degree provided they work in the Covid ICUs for one year.

  •  Also, there are between 90,000 to one lakh doctors who graduated from overseas universities who haven’t been able to pass a national entrance exam.  20,000 brightest of these kids should be identified  and asked to work in Covid ICU for one year for getting a permanent registration.

When the oxygen drops, they need proning. And somebody has to monitor their blood gases. All this is done by nurses and junior doctors.

The current doctors and nurses who are taking care of Covid patients across the country have done a fantastic job during the first wave. Now they are tired. They are fed up. They are burnt out. A number of them are getting infected.

Unless a parallel workforce for Covid ICUs is created, there can be a problem

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