Even as India is facing the vicious situation due to second wave of Covid-19, the pandemic has pushed the family members of infected patients to any extent to save the lives of their loved ones. Doctors in Karnataka’s capital city Bengaluru and other states have experienced people enquiring about buying an ICU set up or installing the same at home at any cost since they are not easily available in hospitals at the time of emergency.
According to Dr Prasanna, President at Private Hospitals Association of Karnataka, people are desperate to buy medical devices such as NIV or ICU set up if hospitals can make some space for their patients. On humanitarian grounds, the hospitals agree at times but buying such equipment are quite expensive and will financially affect the families of the infected patients.
Despite all financial hurdles, people are ready to buy such medical devices as for them nothing seems expensive than the cost of a loved one's life. There are several instances where patients’ families have spent a huge amount of money and set these medical facilities up at their homes. A NIV set up would cost anywhere between Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.3 lakh. Whereas, an ICU set up costs even much more. Moreover, people would also need technical help, a backup lab and a nurse at least for such temporary medical set up at homes.
“With the increase in demand of such medical devices, the prices have also shot up,” said Dr Prasanna, adding, “Earlier, I have taken NIVs on rent whenever number of patients were more. Then, it was Rs 800 per day per set. Now, the prices are over Rs 10,000 per day and most times they are not available as yet.”
He further explained that with time, even hiring a nursing staff has also become costlier. “One freelance nurse who would agree to work in a six-hour shift charges Rs 2,000 per shift. Now imagine the cost the families would have to pay till the time patient recovers. By the time a person is cured of Covid-19 with the help of all these facilities at home, he/she would have to work for the next few years just to clear these bills if he/she belongs to a middle or lower financial background,” the doctor added.
Meanwhile, there is another parallel business that is booming with the onset of black fungus or mucormycosis infection. Several labs and diagnostic centers have come up with a 'Black Fungus package', which includes MRI brain, MRI orbit, MRI PNS, CT PNS and MRI contrast and will costs around Rs 18,000 to 23,000 in various places.
“Those who recovered from Covid-19 and are experiencing any symptoms that they feel might be related to mucormycosis are taking these packages. They are in demand as the results are out in four to six hours,” said Karthik S, who works as a lab technician in Bengaluru.
Though these are not welcoming changes, but people are compelled to spend their savings on such expensive medical facilities in these gloomy situation. Those who can afford are hoarding necessary equipment, medicines and oxygen cylinders at their homes. The fear of losing health and life is forcing people to behave like this. But there is also a parallel black market where there is danger of people falling prey to duplicate equipment and losing money. Police have arrested several quacks and others in such cases from various places.