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Monday, May 10, 2021

Death and despair outside Delhi’s Lok Nayak hospital: ‘We don’t know where else to go’

Helpless, they sat outside the hospital and waited. Many of them had already been refused beds and oxygen cylinders elsewhere in the city.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: April 30, 2021 10:50:30 pm
Md Qasim's wife Rubina at Lok Nayak Hospital. (Express Photo by Jignasa Sinha)

With over 100 patients being discharged from Lok Nayak Hospital on Friday, families rushed with Covid patients to get a bed – only to be told that none were available. Helpless, they sat outside the hospital and waited. Many of them had already been refused beds and oxygen cylinders elsewhere in the city.

Among them was 34-year-old Md Qasim, who was brought in an ambulance by his wife and his neighbours. Though he hadn’t been able to get a Covid test, his family said he had the symptoms. The guards let the ambulance in but doctors couldn’t admit him right away. Within 10 minutes, he started coughing and collapsed under the sun. His wife Rubina screamed for help as Qasim breathed his last. Other families came to the entrance and shouted: “At least get him an oxygen cylinder.”

Doctors tried to revive Qasim, but couldn’t. As hospital staffers put her husband’s body inside the ambulance, Rubina said: “I have lost everything. We have been searching for a hospital bed since yesterday. We were told people were discharged from here… there could be beds. We couldn’t even get tested for Covid. How will I tell my children that their father is dead?”

Qasim’s body was taken back to his home in Rohini.

Outside the hospital’s gates, Balram (40), his brother-in-law Vijay and their friends waited for an hour but couldn’t get admission for his elder brother Kanhaiya (48).

“We received his report yesterday and found he has Covid. He has difficulty in breathing… We went to a private hospital in Burari on Thursday night and Friday morning but they didn’t let us in. We thought we would get a bed here. We have been waiting but nothing seems to be happening. Doctors aren’t talking to us… guards told us to leave. My brother can’t walk now. We need to get him admitted,” he said.

The family went to Hindu Rao Hospital and Gurunanak Eye Centre but couldn’t get an oxygen cylinder.

Even families who managed to get admission wondered how the overwhelmed hospital would be able to care for their loved ones.

Rajesh (32) broke down after a video call with his mother Kaushalya. The hospital had allowed him a minute-long call with his mother, who is in the ICU. “It has been two days and she is not able to speak. I am worried I might lose her, but I am helpless. Her oxygen saturation level has dropped to 70. I don’t know what’s going on inside, whether she’s okay,” he said.

Kaushalya was admitted to Lok Nayak on April 23 after she developed a fever. Her family has since tried to move her to a private hospital but couldn’t arrange a bed.

A medical officer from Lok Nayak said, “We have 1,500 beds and are admitting hundreds of patients every day. For those who can’t be admitted, we are sending them to nearby hospitals. We have no beds now. Our staffers are still helping families with oxygen cylinders and ambulance services.”

The hospital’s medical director, Suresh Kumar, did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.

According to the hospital, 104 patients were discharged and 170 admitted as of Thursday night.

Families struggle with steep ambulance fare

As families shuttled between hospitals, they complained that the ambulance fare was too expensive. Some of them used e-rickshaws and autos to ferry patients.

Balram said he has spent more than Rs 10,000 to get his brother from Burari to Delhi Gate. Rubina and her family spent Rs 7,000 to take her husband’s body to the burial ground.

Jitesh, an auto driver outside the hospital, said, “These ambulance drivers are looting people. The families now come to us to ferry patients. I know it’s scary but I have already seen several deaths outside the hospital. I want to help people… can’t leave them to die. I came from Rohini last night around 9 pm. Since then, I helped over 30 patients go either back home or to another hospital. People are helpless.”

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