May 12, 2021 8:41:51 am
As Covid fatalities rise, the virus has now emerged as the second biggest cause of death in India after cardiac diseases. It has even overtaken chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to figure in the top two.
The rise has not spared Panchkula district, which officially reported 46 deaths in the first 10 days along with 3800-odd cases. The fatality rate in the district has now crossed the national average of 1 percent to stand at 1.2 per cent.
The number of deaths in May has seen a steep upward curve, as compared to deaths recorded in entire April. While only four deaths were recorded in the first 10 days of April, the next 10 days witnessed 14 deaths as the curve continued upwards. The final 10 days of April saw as many as 35 deaths, which have risen to 46 in May.
Dr Manoj Verma, Senior Medical Officer at the Panchkula health department who manages Covid wards, attributes the rise to ”an acute lack of preparedness of the heath infrastructure coupled with its pre-Covid inadequacies.” He adds, ”The cases are too many to be tackled. Even if we ramp up the infrastructure now, we need time, space and resources. A ventilator on average costs Rs 10 lakh and a Bipap Rs 50,000. Now even if they are bought, we do not have the staff to man these machines. The current staff is already too stretched manning emergencies at places that never existed before,” he said.
A severe lack of medical oxygen plants in hospitals is also taking a heavy toll as medical facilities are unable to increase oxygen output to the desired capacity. “If we had ample oxygen, we could have turned all our beds into oxygen beds. We could have provided oxygen even in the quarantine centres where required. Patients are now dying for lack of it,” rues Dr Verma.
Drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, which are being used in the treatment of Covid are in short supply, again adding to the rise in the number of deaths. “Doctors across the country are prescribing these drugs. But the country does not have these. Black marketing of the drugs has further aggravated the issue,” Dr Verma says.
The mutations to the Covid-19 virus have also become a direct cause of the rise in fatalities when paired with lack of facilities and resources in the country. “The government prepared itself for a second wave of the first variant. We were not prepared for a more deadly, virulent virus. The mutation has increased the number of infections as well as virulence. The combination has put serious pressure on the existent healthcare,” points out Dr Verma.
A sluggish vaccination drive has only added to the cause which led to this outcome. “Any patent on vaccine should have been removed. There are lakhs of pharma companies in India and many, if not all, could have been given the rights to manufacture vaccines in high numbers. We have vaccinated only 10 percent of our population with first dose and a mere 3 percent fully. The vaccines should have been given to all before the arrival of the second wave, not after. Had we been able to vaccinate a big chunk of our population in the crucial break we got before April, the situation would have been much better,” notes Verma.
Concluding his observations on ground, Verma underlines one crucial aspect of the increasing number of deaths — the comorbidities.
“India is a comorbidity king. Diabetes, COPD, heart diseases, lung diseases and kidney diseases are all adding to the complications created during a Covid infection. Obesity is another comorbidity that is aggravating the condition of patients in the current wave as obese people with lung infections find it more difficult to breathe,” he concluded.
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