Rajat Sharma

Is Delhi health system on the verge of collapse? Shortage of beds ? No Testing? Queues at burial grounds and crematoriums ?

akb2910With the number of cases and fatalities rising, numerous messages have started circulating on social media which say that patients are dying in Delhi because of want of beds. Questions have also been raised about testing, treatment and the credibility of the health system. India TV reporters went to major hospitals around the capital and reported that the situation is not so worse as is being made out to be.

There are more than 8,000 hospital beds in Delhi for COVID patients, out of which 4,500 beds are in government hospitals and nearly 3,500 beds are in private hospitals. Nearly 2,500 beds are lying vacant in government hospitals because patients are preferring private hospitals. Most of the beds in private hospitals are full and the demand is rising day by day. In the midst of all these, fake messages are being circulated on social media to say that nearly one lakh people have died in Delhi and that hospitals are hiding actual figures on fatalities.

Messages are also being circulated about hospitals refusing to treat patients citing different reasons. Delhi government’s appeal to people with mild symptoms to stay at home and opt for self-treatment, is being misinterpreted on social media to say that Delhi hospitals are now unable to manage the pandemic. People are now asking questions whether our hospitals are really short of beds, oxygen and ventilators. They are also asking why refrigerated trucks have been deployed outside hospitals leading to rumors that the mortuaries are full. People are also asking, based on fake messages on social media, whether there are queues outside crematoriums and graveyards.

In the midst of this, the Lt. Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal on Friday junked the state government’s decision to allow treatment of Delhi residents only in the capital’s hospitals. Exercising his power as chair of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, he issued order that no patient shall be denied treatment for not being a Delhi resident.

I feel, with the spurt in COVID cases in Delhi and neighbouring states, there could be shortage of beds and proper treatment in hospitals outside Delhi, and patients prefer to come to Delhi for treatment. This will definitely create a big burden on Delhi hospitals, and the health infrastructure may not be able to withstand such pressure. If people from other states are admitted to Delhi hospitals, residents of Delhi will surely find it difficult to get treatment.

I could not understand the logic behind the Lt. Governor’s decision. Who will benefit if Delhi’s health system collapses? Instead of scoring brownie points, all of us should think about providing treatment to Delhi patients. Both the Centre and Delhi governments must work together to tackle the pandemic. This is an extraordinary situation and it requires extraordinary decisions. There should be no scope for politics on such issues.

India TV reporters visited different hospitals for a ground reality check. At Gangaram Hospital, officials said very few patients have been turned away because of lack of beds. The hospital superintendent said, people having mild flu symptoms are being directed to the flu ward inside the hospital for preliminary checks and then sent home. At the Corona ward in AIIMS Trauma Care Centre, the AIIMS medical superintendent Dr D K Sharma said that only serious or critical patients are being treated there, and the rest are sent to another COVID dedicated hospital at National Cancer Institute, Jhajjar, Haryana. At the Trauma Centre, out of 250 beds, 105 beds are full and 145 beds are vacant.

In LNJP Hospital, more than 1,200 out of 2,000 beds are vacant, while 1,400 out of 1,500 beds in GTB Hospital are vacant. These are data furnished by Delhi government on their app. In Safadarjang hospital, almost all beds are occupied, while there are 289 out of 500 beds vacant in Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital. Overall, 4,400 out of 8,500 beds in Delhi hospitals are occupied and more than 4,150 beds are vacant.

As far as ventilators are concerned, LNJP hospital has 54 out of 64 ventilators occupied, GTB Hospital has only seven out of 53 ventilators occupied, 46 ventilators are unused in Safdarjang hospital, and all the 29 ventilators in Rajiv Gandhi Hospital are not in use. Overall, out of 512 ventilators in Delhi, only 248 are in use and the remaining unused.

Former MP Shahid Siddiqui had pointed out how his niece was denied treatment at several hospitals in Delhi after which she died. We checked the hospitals who refused treatment. Max hospital, Saket had all 200 beds full, Max hospital, Patparganj had all 80 beds full, Max hospital, Shalimar Bagh had all 56 beds full, Apollo hospital, Delhi, had all 137 beds occupied, Holy Family hospital had 55 out of 69 beds full and Moolchand Hospital had 25 out of 28 beds full. There should be a probe into why the last two hospitals denied treatment to Shahid Siddiqui’s niece.

I have narrated the statistics in different Delhi hospitals to give you an idea of the current COVID situation in the capital. The overall picture is: most of the beds in private hospitals are full while several thousand beds are lying vacant in government run hospitals. People in general believe patients do not get proper care in government hospitals. They do not have trust in the system, and there lies the problem.
Already, the situation in Delhi is turning grim. Total number of COVID cases (29,943) in the capital is set to cross 30,000 and so far, 874 patients have died. The positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in Delhi is as high as 27 per cent. Out of 5,042 people tested in last 24 hours, 1,282 tested positive. This is a worrisome trend as one out of every four Delhiite appears to be infected with the virus. In the last one week, 9,092 COVID patients came to hospitals. From March 14 till May 31, a total of 470 patients died, while from June 1 till 7, this figure went up to 812. This means, 342 COVID patients died in Delhi last week.
There is confusion over glaring difference in death figures in Delhi government and Municipal Corporation statistics. I do not think any government can fudge statistics and hide the number of fatalities in this technological age. The difference in statistics needs to be reconciled.
On one hand, Delhi government says 874 people died, but Corporation records show more than 1,700 COVID patients were either cremated or buried. There appears to be some communication gap, or technical error. This needs to be fixed at the earliest, otherwise baseless rumours will circulate on social media to say that there is no space for burial or cremation in Delhi. Such mischievous messages must be nipped in the bud.

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