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As dengue cases continue to rise, capital’s hospitals are swamped

On Wednesday, ward 13 in the Department of Medicine at Safdarjung Hospital was overflowing, with patients occupying the floors along three corridors and some sharing beds

Written by Ashna Butani , Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: October 21, 2021 9:52:56 am
In Safdarjung hospital, patients were on the floor on both sides of the corridors, along with bystanders. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

As dengue cases rise in the national capital, hospitals are finding facilities swamped.

On Wednesday, ward 13 in the Department of Medicine at Safdarjung Hospital was overflowing, with patients occupying the floors along three corridors and some sharing beds. The growing number of dengue cases has intensified the stress on the medical system.

Pramod Kumar, a resident of Okhla, waited outside the ward as his 19-year-old nephew was admitted for dengue. He has been at the hospital for two days after he was transferred from a private hospital when his platelet count began to drop, Kumar said. His nephew, who has had a fever for nearly a week now, is among the patients who occupy the floor, Kumar said.

Inside the ward, patients were on the floor on both sides of the corridors, some with bystanders accompanying them. Their blankets and belongings were scattered around. Two doctors crouched on the floor attending to them. Families and visitors milled about, both inside and outside the ward, wanting to bring in food or check on patients.

As Malathi Devi, a native of Muzaffarpur put it, there is no space in the ward to even set anything down or to walk. Her husband, a cancer patient, was diagnosed with dengue on Tuesday, she said. They had sought treatment at the neighbouring AIIMS first, but were asked to shift to Safdarjung Hospital owing to lack of beds there, she explained. Considering his condition, he has been given a bed, but he shares it with another patient, Malathi said. With children not being allowed in the ward, her 10-year-old waited outside for his mother, popping into the shelter near AIIMS where they spend the night, to bring back food.

Families also waited outside in a courtyard behind the block. A group of four women from Trilokpuri said they had come to visit their neighbour, a woman in her 20s who was diagnosed with dengue and has spent three days at the hospital.

Patients sharing beds or lying on the floor at the hospital is not new, though dengue cases have been stressing the system further, said Dr B K Tripathi, Professor, Department of Medicine, and former head of the department.

The hospital does not yet have a separate ward for dengue and other viral fevers, and ward 13 has patients with other ailments as well. “We have opened a separate ward for dengue in the past, when cases arose to around 40 to 60 patients daily. In the next one or two weeks, if cases keep rising, we will have to open a separate ward for dengue.”

The hospital also sees cases of dengue from nearby districts of Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh. The capacity of each of the three wards in the medicine department is only for around 52 to 54 patients. One-third of dengue patients who report to an emergency are likely to be admitted and shifted to regular wards,” he said.

Kamlesh Singh, 35, from Indirapuram was admitted to GTB hospital three days ago, but could not get a bed of her own. She shares a bed with a girl who has a skin infection.

Kamlesh writhed in pain on her shared bed and was unable to say much. Her husband, Prem, who works as a driver, said that she got a fever a week ago, and they took her to two local doctors. Since the situation did not improve, she was brought to GTB hospital. As her platelet count is low, doctors confirmed it is dengue but her test reports are pending.

Just beside her, two other women shared a bed. While one was diagnosed with typhoid, the other woman, in her early 20s, who tested positive for dengue, cried about her abdominal pain.

Since there is no separate dengue ward, patients were being admitted to the medicine wards and most had to share beds. Nurses, ward boys and doctors had their hands full on Wednesday morning. A doctor in the medicine ward said,

“I don’t even know if dengue has been declared an epidemic or not. All my sunrises and sunsets have been in the hospital for the last few days.”

Dr Ankit Luthra, vice-president, Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA), University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, said, “We have been seeing between 100-200 patients a day for the last two weeks. Since there are not as many beds, we are accommodating two patients in one bed. This is because we have to admit patients who have a platelet count of less than 50,000 and cannot let them be without treatment.”

Roshan Lal and his family came from Aligarh to get his 48-year-old wife admitted to GTB hospital 10 days ago. They lay out bedsheets and rest in the courtyard during the day, and sleep outside the hospital at night.

Roshan Lal said, “She had a fever and was very weak. We got the tests and found out that she had dengue. Doctors asked us to bring her here for treatment.”

Bablu, the patient’s brother, said, “Her son’s wedding is scheduled for November 6… Everyone is really worried. She is sharing a bed with another patient.” The family was considering shifting her to Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital.

The situation was just as grim at RML hospital. A junior doctor said that the scene brought back images from the pandemic. He said, “It might not be as severe but the numbers are quite high.” At least 100 dengue patients have been coming every day since last week. Not all can be admitted to the wards, hence many are treated in the emergency area. The emergency area of the medicine department was brimming with patients and families on Wednesday. Cramped with stretchers and people, even nurses struggled to provide treatment without being pushed. Most dengue patients were on IV fluids. A dengue patient scrambled to make his way to the nurses and inform them that he needed more fluid.

At Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital too, there was no separate ward for dengue. In the medicine department, doctors and nurses said that there was at least one positive patient and 8-10 suspected patients in every ward.

At LNJP Hospital, 100 beds have been set aside for fevers like dengue and malaria at the emergency department and the medicine block, said Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director, LNJP. “We only have around 15 patients admitted now who are suspected to have dengue. Most of these patients are referred to us from NCR — Ghaziabad, Meerut, Noida,” he said.

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