COVID-19: Complete collapse of public healthcare system in Gujarat; bodies rotting in morgues

Many infected people are forced to wait outside hospital for admission. The condition of some of the patients is so critical that they die before receiving any medical treatment

File Photo (courtesy: Twitter/ @iamasjadraza7)
File Photo (courtesy: Twitter/ @iamasjadraza7)

Nachiketa Desai

Bodies rotting in morgues, critical COVID-19 patients gasping for oxygen in ambulances lined up outside hospitals; industries, markets observing voluntary lockdown, mass exodus of migrant workers. This has become the norm of Gujarat in the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The official figure of COVID-19 deaths hover around 5,000 but reports in the local media put the number at more than double.

The situation is so grim that even Gujarati newspapers and TV channels, which are by and large known for their pro-establishment bias, are compelled to report instances that reflect the complete collapse of the public health care system.

That beds in all government hospitals in the state are full was admitted by deputy chief minister Nitin Patel who also holds the portfolio of health department. In an appeal to private hospitals, the minister urged them to reserve sizable number of beds for COVID-19 patients.

While municipal bodies and the state government seem to have abdicated their role, social and religious organisations have thrown open their buildings to be used as COVID-19 care centre.

In Vadodara, for instance, a mosque in Jahangirpura has been converted into a 50-bed COVID-19 care centre equipped with oxygen, life-saving medicines and a team of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff tend to the patients.

Like the hospitals, crematoriums and graveyards too are working round-the-clock with bodies coming in for cremation or burial in numbers that they are unable to manage. The situation in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Bharuch, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Mehsana, Patan and Bhuj is similar – bodies lined up for burial or cremation.

The rule that the hospital cannot hand over a body to the relatives without conducting a post mortem to know the cause of the death has been exasperating people who have lost their near and dear ones.

The body of a person known to have died from COVID-19 is not given to his next of kin or relative but is cremated or buried by the hospital. It takes as long as 24 hours to 36 hours for the post mortem report to come and so the relatives must wait to take possession of the body.

The situation led to a nasty scene in Valsad last Sunday where over 30 bodies were rotting in the civil hospital morgue for more than three days and were handed over to the relatives of the dead or disposed of by the hospital at midnight following a ruckus by impatient relatives.

Valsad civil hospital has 370 beds which are all occupied at present by coronavirus active patients. There are many more coronavirus infected people waiting outside the hospital for admission. The condition of some of the patients is so critical that they die before receiving any medical treatment.

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Published: 20 Apr 2021, 5:45 PM