Updated: April 29, 2021 6:54:58 am
It was at past midnight on Sunday April 25 that Rahul Yadav, 30, brought his Covid-positive mother, Tulsi bai Yadav, to Indore’s Aurobindo Hospital, gasping for breath with oxygen saturation levels dipping to 58. “They guard didn’t allow the ambulance to go in, so I left my mother outside to figure out formalities… but I was plainly denied admission,” says Rahul.
By the time he had reached Super Speciality Hospital with her, Tulsi bai was dead.
The 54-year-old had tested positive on April 17, with 70% of her lungs affected. Rahul says he first went to Apollo Hospital in Indore, but it turned them away saying they had no oxygen bed. “We were told there was a five- to-six-day waiting period and that they would call us if a bed was available.”
He registered his number at the hospital, and then tried at least four other private and government hospitals in the city over the next two days. Having not found success in any, he decided to look after Tulsi bai at home. Six days later, she was dead.
With active cases of 92,773 on Wednesday and a 21.7% positivity rate, Madhya Pradesh hospitals are nearly out of oxygen-equipped beds, with patients like Tulsi bai left to fend for themselves. On Tuesday, nearly 94% of its 9,360 ICU and HDU (high dependency unit) beds and 86% of its 23,164 oxygen-equipped beds were occupied, with around a quarter of its cases requiring oxygen beds.
The state has reported several deaths in government hospitals attributed to shortage of oxygen, including six in Shahdol, the first such reported across the country.
The worst-hit Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Ujjain and Gwalior districts — accounting for 44.64% of the state’s cases — have no oxygen-equipped beds available in government hospitals anymore. Only a handful remain in private — 25 in Bhopal, 62 in Indore, 37 in Jabalpur, and 144 in Gwalior. Ujjain is out of all such beds.
A board outside Aurobindo Hospital says that “owing to shortage of life saving equipment and oxygen”, admission of new patients has been stopped.
A senior government official said, “We cannot increase the bed capacity unless we have more resources to equip them with oxygen.”
In a response to the Jabalpur Bench of the High Court, the state government said on April 27 that while in March 2020 there were 536 oxygen beds in 11 districts, by March 2021, 4,100 beds had been made available in 51 districts and another 7,020 beds with centralised oxygen supply made available in district hospitals and Community Healthcare Centres (CHCs).
The reply showed that only 597 ICU beds had been added between April 2020 and March 2021, taking the total to 826 in the state.
Dr Sarman Singh, Director of AIIMS Bhopal, says their 500-bed Covid centre is occupied to 125% capacity. “There are nights we come alarmingly close to exhausting our oxygen. Distress calls are made to the Collector and we somehow manage. We need not just oxygen but also oxygen pipelines, technicians and paramedics including doctors,” says Singh.
Sachin Jain of NGO SVikas Samwad Samiti says patients face hurdles at every step. “First the government has put the onus of testing on citizens, who would so by the fifth day, then the report takes three days, by when the patient is already critical. And to cater to them, in one year, the state government has added merely 600 ICU beds.”
(Medical Expert) Anant Bhan, based in Bhopal, says that the high oxygen requirement shows that, “Either people are afraid of testing and coming out only when severe symptoms have surfaced or they do not have adequate access to testing.”
As many as 72% of the state’s active cases are in home isolation. According to government data, around 70,000 calls were made to such 55,085 patients.
Interestingly, the state has also set up 21,731 isolation beds without any oxygen support. Of these, more than half (56%) are vacant.
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