- COVID-19 treatment centres reach maximum capacity with over 18,000 active patients
- Govt. acknowledges bed shortages, assures measures are being taken to expand capacity
- President instructs officials to expedite vaccine import and administration
- Over 2,000 beds per district to be added to system
- Steps taken to use wards in smaller hospitals for asymptomatic patients
- Guidelines being prepared on treating asymptomatic patients at home
- Lockdown only if necessary, current focus on isolation, says State Minister
By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
An embattled Government yesterday acknowledged Sri Lanka is facing bed shortages, scrambling to increase capacity at the district level, secure wards at small hospitals for asymptomatic patients, and preparing guidelines to treat patients at home to dam the rising tide of infections.
The country is facing a bed crunch after it was hit by the third wave of the pandemic, with over 18,000 persons currently under medical care and daily COVID-19 detections exceeding 1,500 since 29 April. Battling the surge of infections, the Government yesterday acknowledged COVID-19 treatment centres in the country are reaching maximum capacity.
According to a statement issued by the President’s Media Division, health officials informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a discussion held yesterday that steps were being taken to maintain facilities at all hospitals at the required level. They were instructed by the President to amp up vaccine imports and increase facilities at struggling hospitals around the country.
“The President emphasised that the maximum number of COVID-19 shots should be given within a short period of time,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle assured that measures are being taken to increase treatment and intermediate care capacities in the country. She also said the Government may decide on a countrywide lockdown but it would be a last resort as the preference was to isolate specific areas to control virus spread.
“At present, maximum hospital capacities are being reached, with approximately 15,000 persons currently hospitalised. Intermediate care centres are being quickly established on a district level,” she said.
The State Minister added that the Presidential Task Force established to combat COVID-19 had on Thursday given directions to increase the bed capacity in every district by at least 2,000.
“As the number of patients increases, we may have to treat some of them at home. The necessary guidelines for this are currently being prepared by the Health Ministry,” she added.
Meanwhile, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena said that provincial and district directors of health services have been informed to set aside a ward or two in all small hospitals in the area for asymptomatic patients.
Patients displaying symptoms can thus be directed to general and base hospitals and asymptomatic patients can be at the small hospitals, he said.
Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, who on Thursday, warned of the daily patient count exceeding 2,000 in the coming days, also acknowledged that the number of beds in intermediate care centres, where asymptomatic patients are held, is insufficient. Thus there was a need to establish more intermediate care centres.
“For this, we must identify places and develop them but also convert centres previously used for quarantine into intermediate care centres and provide accommodation for patients. This is currently taking place,” he added.
On Thursday, the Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control and Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurveda Hospitals Development and Community Health State Ministries met with other health officials to expedite the use of Ayurvedic hospitals in COVID-19 patient management.
A five-member committee has been appointed to make all necessary arrangements to convert Ayurvedic hospitals into COVID-19 intermediate care centres within a week.
In Parliament earlier this week, Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation State Minister Channa Jayasumana said an order has been placed for 4,000 jumbo oxygen cylinders. In addition to this, 28 hospitals have already received large tanks of liquid oxygen storage and 12 more hospitals are due to receive tanks.
National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head Gen. Shavendra Silva on Wednesday said the Army would soon open a COVID-19 treatment centre equipped with an emergency treatment unit, isolation sections, resuscitation units, ICU, and medical stores in Seeduwa.
“This improvised new COVID-19 hospital in Seeduwa has been equipped with Army-produced 1,200 beds and we will primarily have 5,000 beds ready, and the target is to increase it to 10,000 beds around the country within the next couple of days,” Gen. Shavendra Silva said.
He added that the country had 86,000 hospital beds in total and had set aside 5,000 beds for COVID-treatment initially. He added that the Military made available 3,000 to 3,500 beds in addition to this.
At present, 18,830 persons are under medical care at 76 treatment centres and 1,353 persons suspected of having COVID-19 are under observation at various treatment centres. A total of 6,705 persons are currently undergoing quarantine in 74 centres managed by the Army, Navy, and Air Force.