In Delhi hospitals, no COVID-19 beds available for those without connections

Health care workers in several hospitals said that vacant beds are being allocated only to those who were known to senior doctors even as desperate COVID patients kept waiting

Representative Image
Representative Image

Ashlin Mathew

A family arrived in an autorickshaw with their severely ill COVID-19 positive mother at Delhi’s largest COVID-19 facility, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, but they are not allowed to enter the premises by security personnel at the gate. However, a patient in an ambulance is allowed in, leading to tears and pleading from the family in the autorickshaw.

Similar complaints have been raised by patients waiting at Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital in North West Delhi and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital in South Delhi.

At several government hospitals, there have been complaints that only those who can pull strings and can call senior doctors are being allotted beds even as people queue up in the Emergency wards of these hospitals.

At Dr BSA Hospital, even as COVID-19 patients are waiting for a bed in the Emergency Ward, beds which become vacant are given to those who have access to the heads of various departments, especially Medicine department. “When beds become vacant, they are not updated on the app created by the government; instead arrangements are made to move patients who know the HODs,” said a senior health care worker at Dr BSA Hospital. There are 400 COVID-19 beds at the hospital.

“Two days ago, when I was on COVID-19 shift,I had checked about beds in one of the COVID-19 wards. After I saw there were a couple of beds vacant, I went to the Emergency Ward to allot beds to two of the patients who had been waiting there for a few hours. But I was not allowed. I was informed that the beds were for HOD’s patients. Eventually, several of us had to argue to ensure that a couple of those patients who had been waiting got oxygen beds,” said another health care worker in the hospital.

As soon as a patient is likely to be discharged, calls are made to those who have demanded beds and they arrive within an hour of a bed being vacated, said a health care worker who did not want to be identified. “A staff member got into trouble for admitting a patient on a bed that was kept aside on a senior doctor’s demand. They attempted to remove the patient, but the staff in the ward did not allow it,” said a junior health worker at DR BSA hospital.

“I am currently doing rounds in the ward. I do not have time to answer these questions. Please call me after 20 minutes,” said Dr Harender Kumar, head of the medicine department at the hospital. The doctor did not respond to several calls after 25 minutes.

At Deen Dayal Upadhayay (DDU) Hospital, the waiting runs into days for patients waiting to get admitted. There is an even longer queue waiting for tests to be done. “Several patients who arrive here are sent from one counter to another. There is hardly any help or assistance. And while common citizens are left waiting, those who have called the Medical Superintendent are allowed in and given oxygen beds. Some of these patients do not even need those beds. They are here as a matter of precaution,” said a healthcare worker at DDU Hospital.

The complaints from LNJP Hospital sounded similar. “Several of those who have been admitted recently have been relatives of the senior medical officers in the hospital. This has happened even though relatives or acquaintances of other health care workers are not admitted in the hospital. These patients are given better treatment than others as there are several calls from medical officers requesting information about these patients,” said a healthcare worker at the hospital.

Earlier this week, a survey by Local Circles had found that 55% of the COVID-19 patients in India were using their social clout and connections to secure ICU beds for treatment. They had received more than 17,000 responses from 309 districts across the country. According to the survey, 55% of the respondents stated that they had to use “connections or clout” to get a hospital bed and only 13% of respondents got ICU beds through the routine process.

The rest said they had to follow up continuously with hospitals, amplify their requests on social media, and reach out to government officials for help to get admitted in a hospital.

“There are no hospital beds available. No one answers our calls. If we do not know anyone in the government, we will die. The government has not been responding. I was helped by strangers. Many have not gotten help and I saw several patients dying on pavements in front of a government hospital,” said a person who was looking for a hospital bed for his mother after her oxygen levels began to dip. He was not able to find a hospital bed, but was helped with an oxygen cylinder.

In a city of almost 2.8 crore people, where the official figures state there are 25, 986 cases in the last 24 hours, there are hardly any hospital beds, and very few oxygen cylinders to be found.

Across the country, 3,79,257 fresh infections and 3,645 deaths were reported in 24 hours. The caseload has increased to 1.83 crore and more than 2.04 lakh people have died so far.

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