Though the daily infection level in West Bengal has come down to below 2,000 but the state government is not leaving anything to chance and has set up a high-level committee to effectively control the third wave of coronavirus that is likely to hit the country in the next two months.
The committee that will have its first official meeting on Wednesday will formulate a strategy to develop infrastructure and also determine the treatment procedure so that the disease can be controlled from the beginning.
The high-level expert committee includes six doctors from SSKM including G.K. Dhali, Maitrayee Banerjee, Soumitra Ghosh, Mrinal Kanti Das, Asutosh Ghosh and Abhijit Chowdhury. Apart from that the committee includes paediatrician Dilip Pal and Bibhuti Saha and specialists in infectious disease like Yogiraj Roy and Jyotirmoy Pal.
The expert committee will sit for its first official meeting on Wednesday to assess the situation and make necessary recommendations so that the state can prepare an adequate infrastructure beforehand.
"We could not take the advantage of the gap between the first and the second wave and get prepared for the surge in the disease but this time the health department is not leaving anything to chance and we are putting in all our resources so that we can handle the third wave effectively. We are likely to get a buffering time of two months. We want to utilise the time and make necessary arrangements," Director of Medical Education Ajoy Chakraborty said.
"In other countries like Canada we have seen that in the third wave children up to the age group of 12 years are more vulnerable to the disease and the number of cases doubled in this phase. From that perspective, in our state the per day infection rate among children in the second phase is 3 per cent which figuratively is around 200 per days and so it is likely that it will rise up to 5 per cent to 7 per cent which will be around 500 to 700 per day," Chakraborty added.
"In the second wave paediatric Covid patient admissions were around 200 daily. So, assuming this will peak to 500 daily cases, we have to keep aside 5 per cent critical care units and 10 per cent high dependency units (HDUs). But we are targeting a substantially larger number. We plan to scale up paediatric intensive care units (PICU) to 500 beds and HDUs to 1,000. But, most importantly, for infants who are not even a month old, separate Covid beds will be kept in the 68 special new-born care units (SNCU) and new-born intensive care units (NICU) across Bengal," Chakraborty said.
"We will increase these facilities in phases and we hope to increase PICUs to 1500 and HDUs to 2000 even," he added.
"In most of the cases the children need to be kept along with their mothers and so we will have to reorganise the accommodation in the hospitals. We are also taking the opinion of the experts to determine what should be done in cases where one - the child or the mother - becomes negative early," Chakraborty said.
The Bengal government, he said, also was bulk-ordering paediatric oximeters. "Adult oximeters don't work for kids because they have smaller fingers. So, we are acquiring paediatric oximeters. These would be dispatched state-wide. We already have 80 paediatric ventilators, and we are trying to attempt to find out whether adult ventilators can be recalibrated for use in kids who are above two years old. This is being studied at Medical College Hospital," Chakraborty said.
The state will also send out paediatricians and SNCU and NICU nurses to health facilities to train healthcare workers.
The senior health official, however, said the biggest challenge was that intensive paediatric treatment facilities were very Kolkata-centric. "So, we aim to set up self-sufficient paediatric units in the districts. Six new PICUs are being set up in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur, Purulia, Rampurhat and Diamond Harbour," he added.