Unvaccinated individuals make up more than 85pc of patients admitted to ICUs in Karachi

Hospitals overburdened, scores of medical workers infected as Delta variant rages in the city amid the fourth wave.
Published July 30, 2021

Doctors working in Karachi's hospitals have been warning of a surge in Covid-19 cases, particularly among individuals who have not yet been vaccinated — and who account for over 85 per cent of admissions to ICUs in recent days, according to a study by the Sindh health department.

“In the last two weeks, out of the 88 patients in Civil's Covid ICU, 84 were unvaccinated,” said Dr Azizullah Khan Dhiloo, administrator of the Covid-19 ICU at Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital, Karachi.

Dr Dhiloo said the hospital has witnessed a sharp rise in citizens coming to the emergency and is struggling to cater with the influx. The latest surge is the result of the Delta variant, originally detected in India some months ago, along with lax social attitudes and increased activity around Eidul Azha.

On July 26, the Civil hospital halted all its key functions, shut outpatient departments (OPDs) and suspended surgeries till further orders on account of the sharp spike in Covid-19 cases.

“The Covid triage at Civil Hospital was usually filled with 150-200 people on a daily basis. However, in recent days, the number has gone up to 500 a day, with some 50 serious cases requiring hospitalisations.

“The doctors and nurses are overwhelmed. People need to think about the burden that is being placed on medical facilities,” he said.

Talking to Dawn.com, Indus Hospital’s Dr Abdul Bari said a recent Sindh health department study had found that 85pc of the people in Covid-19 ICUs were those who were either not vaccinated or had only received one dose. “A total 106 samples were taken from various hospitals including Indus for this study,” he added.

Hospitals started compiling data on the vaccination status of patients around two weeks ago.

Dr Bari said the hospital was seeing an increase in the number of people with Covid-19 symptoms. “We have gone from 50 serious cases to over 100 severe ones that need hospitalisations.”

Dr Bari warned that non-vaccinated patients are spending a longer time in hospitals. “Those who are not vaccinated must go for the jabs immediately. Follow SOPs, wear masks, cut down on movement,” he stressed.

"Another important thing is that people who are working in hospitals and offices must avoid having lunch together. Usually, people wear masks in professional settings but tend to sit in groups and remove masks during lunch breaks. Sit alone and have your lunch,” he added.

'Terrifying situation'

At a meeting of the provincial taskforce on coronavirus held at the Chief Minister House on Friday, doctors warned that the Covid-19 situation in the province could turn "terrifying” and sounded alarm over the increasing pressure on hospitals as well as the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Sindh Health Secretary Dr Kazim Jatoi informed the meeting that a positivity rate of 13.7 per cent was recorded in the province, while 39,958 active cases had been reported as of Friday. He said 1,410 of the patients were admitted to hospitals, 1,192 of whom were critically ill and 102 were on ventilators.

The health secretary said that the positivity rate in Karachi during the last 24 hours stood at 23pc, 14.52pc in Hyderabad and 2.9pc in Sukkur.

In Karachi, the highest positivity rate was recorded in East district at 33pc, followed by 21pc in Korangi district and 19pc in West district. South and Malir districts reported a positivity rate of 17pc each.

Hospital staff under pressure

With hospitals overwhelmed, overworked doctors and nurses grapple with the spike in numbers, with many testing positive for the virus themselves.

Major public and private sector hospitals in the city are facing Covid-19 outbreaks among staff. At one facility, over 100 staff members tested positive in a single day, forcing an entire section to be closed down.

Dr Dhiloo stressed that the government should give booster shots to medical staff. “Now is a good time for booster shots, preferably Moderna or Pfizer, for frontline workers. Any time a doctor or nurse tests positive, we have to send them for isolation. This affects the workflow at hospitals and can lead to untoward situations, especially where critical patients are involved.”

How to get vaccinated

The government has allowed walk-in vaccination services for all citizens over the age of 18 years. You can find the nearest vaccination centre here.

Read More: All you need to know about Covid vaccines in Pakistan

To ensure a smooth process, it is advisable to register for the vaccine on the National Immunisation Management System (CNIC) using your CNIC mobile number or by messaging your details to 1166. In either case, you will receive a code that you can then use to speed up the process of vaccination at the centre.

After you have received both the shots, you can get a certificate from the NIMS portal.

Header photo courtesy JPMC via BBC