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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Delhi: People running around with dipping oxygen, docs point to lack of centralised help system

Doctors dealing with the caseload in hospitals, both government and private, are appealing to the government to create a centralised triage system for patients who at the moment have to rely on the Delhi Corona app to check availability of beds.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi |
May 3, 2021 1:10:56 am
A patient waits outside Lok Nayak hospital for admission. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

People with dipping oxygen levels running around in the heat, their relatives pleading with hospital authorities to admit them, often in vain — over the past two weeks, as Delhi’s Covid graph has shot up and oxygen availability mired in a tug of war between central and Delhi governments, the capital’s residents have been at the receiving end.

Doctors dealing with the caseload in hospitals, both government and private, are appealing to the government to create a centralised triage system for patients who at the moment have to rely on the Delhi Corona app to check availability of beds. More often than not, the hospital numbers are busy or unresponsive, leaving patients on their own.

“There are people who are running around in the heat trying to find a bed when their oxygen levels are 70. This should not be happening. The government must create a system where patients can go and then they are assigned hospitals. No private system can cater to them. The government will have to step in,” said Dr Sumit Ray, medical superintendent at Holy Family Hospital.

The hospital had set aside 270 beds for Covid patients but has increased that number to 390. They have beds with oxygen support in the corridors and trolleys in between existing beds in the ICU to cater to patients. Yet, he said, it is not enough, as day after day, patients end up at the hospital begging to be treated.

Ray, a critical care specialist, says the situation is something that he has never seen: “Being an intensivist, I have seen many deaths, but never like this. These are cases where we know that a person needs critical care but are not able to provide it. Not just here, but in any hospital. My resident doctors cry, not because they complain about the load, but because they are helpless.”

At Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, the situation is hardly different, says internal medicine specialist, Dr Suranjit Chatterjee. “In my 25 years of practice, I have never seen a situation like this. There are patients everywhere but we have no place or oxygen for them. They are begging us to treat them. The government must come through and provide a triage system which also has some basic facilities for patients. We have young patients in the emergency ward crashing because we don’t have any place in our ICUs. There has to be a system to save them,” he said.

According to Delhi government officials, Delhi has a system whereby people who have tested positive can call the helpline, 1031, and get help from officials and doctors on the line to decide the course of action. The helpline number, however, is usually out of reach and when someone calls, he is redirected to the Delhi government’s Delhi Corona app to seek information on availability of hospital beds.

But many hospitals which show availability on the app in fact refuse patients when they call, saying they do not have oxygen beds. The Indian Express called 10 hospitals where beds were available as per the app, but the call was not answered in a single one.

An epidemiologist in a government hospital in Delhi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the problem with pandemics always boils down to governance. “Public health is and will always be an issue of governance and not health or disease. These situations only help expose the underlying issues. What Delhi is seeing is a complete lack of coordination between different governments. A centralised control room that actually works is what we need, but the governments are not being able to provide anything other than a headless chicken approach,” he said.

Delhi saw 20,394 cases on Sunday. The positivity rate dipped from 32% to 28%. This is the first time in a week that the positivity rate has gone below 30%. The city recorded 407 deaths.

At present there are 21,420 beds for Covid patients in Delhi, of which only 1,277 are available. There are 5,154 ICU beds, of which only 20 are vacant, the Delhi corona app says.

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