Akash Goel

In India, the Covid crisis has left us helpless and broken

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New Delhi

Crematoriums are burning so many pyres that they have run out of space and wood to keep up with demand. Vehicles filled with bodies queue outside the funeral homes for hours. People are dying in the streets, some laid out on stretchers, while ambulances wait in vain outside every hospital in the city. This is what a collapsed healthcare system looks like.

There are 4,700 Covid intensive care beds for Delhi’s population of 19 million. There are 20,750 non-ICU Covid hospital beds, but most are without any oxygen support and have strict admission criteria. To find a bed, the families of Covid sufferers are forced to call hundreds of leads to see if any hospital has capacity.

I was one of those people desperately searching for a bed last week. A friend’s father was deteriorating fast at home, even though he was already on oxygen. It was clear that the oxygen wasn’t working and that he needed to be admitted to an ICU as soon as possible. Eventually, I found on the government’s online portal that there might be availability at one of the city’s biggest hospitals, Sir Ganga Ram. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found when I arrived to confirm the bed for him. It was mayhem — the entire hospital was overrun. No one could answer the basic question: is there a bed available for a coronavirus patient in critical condition?

The huge gap between supply and demand for treatments forces people to break the law

Finally, after 30 minutes of running from staff to doctors and even to security, pleading for my friend’s father, the best response I could get was from one nurse: ‘Bring the patient and we’ll see.’ I took one look at the huge line of patient-laden ambulances waiting outside and knew I could not take such a risk.

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