MUMBAI: In 21 days of April, the 24 civic ward war rooms have attended to 74,317 calls from Covid patients and their relatives wanting a hospital bed, ambulance or a quarantine facility, second only to the 1 lakh calls received in May last year.
The April call-load is already 150% more than in March, when 30,096 calls were attended to. Incidentally, officials manning the civic war rooms also have to make calls to each of the patients whose RT-PCR report is positive; with over 7,000 patients testing positive daily, each war room has its task cut out every morning.
Senior officials said they did expect a rise in calls this month as cases started to spike. “The team strength at war rooms was reduced when call numbers started dropping in December 2020 and January. But when cases increased once again, teachers, doctors and civic staff were asked to get into action,’’ said an official.
The work is not as simple as attending to a call; the war room team has to first conduct a telephonic triage to understand how ill the caller/patient is. “Our doctors have to seek more details and advise the patient accordingly. Not all patients who call up for ICU bed need it. There are times when panicky relatives start arguing with us and we have to pacify them,” said the official.
In case of patients calling up the ward war rooms between 11pm and 7am whose report has not arrived or whose Covid test is still not done but who has symptoms, they are entitled for allotment of beds in jumbo field hospitals in the suspected category of beds.
A medical health officer said home quarantined patients call asking doctors to prescribe them medication. “We tell them to first contact their general physician. Some ask for guidelines on home quarantine, the quarantine centre nearest to their home or antiviral remdesivir,” said the health officer.
However, there also are complaints about the working of war rooms. Colaba corporator Makrand Narwekar said: “We urgently needed an ambulance to take a positive patient to St George’s Hospital near CSMT. But when after repeated calls to the war room, we got no response we had to move the patient in a private vehicle.”
Goregaon corporator Sandeep Patel said there is a huge load on the war room staff as well. “Everyone is working hard in this pandemic. But sometimes there is no response on the phone number circulated. Once we found out that the MTNL number itself was not functional. This sends out a very wrong message,” he said. Some corporators have stopped relying on war rooms and directly check with the medical officers for a hospital bed for patients.