Covid-19 catastrophe unfolding in Delhi unprecedented, health infrastructure under duress (IANS Special)
Updated Jun 11, 2020
By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) The political capital of India is amid an unprecedented health crisis due to a coronavirus outbreak, and this crisis is twofold - the city houses the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan, all the ministries and also has a large population of close to 20 million. Recently, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has gone on record to say that the city is expecting close to 5.5 lakh Covid-19 cases till July end, indicating the worst is yet to come. The crisis is expected to increase manifold as private hospitals are running almost full with Covid-19 cases, and between 60-70 per cent beds are lying vacant in government hospitals.
The Covid-19 crisis has already wreaked havoc among central government offices. Over 2,000 Central government employees have been infected so far - the Defence Ministry is facing Covid-19 menace, as its top bureaucrat has contracted the viral infection. And, the Centre's top spokesperson is battling coronavirus, while a senior Finance Ministry official has also been infected.
Let alone the Centre, the Delhi government is also facing the heat due to rapidly increasing Covid-19 cases, 32,810 so far, while bodies continue to pile up at various mortuaries in city hospitals.
According to Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) data, as many as 2,098 corpses of Covid-19 patients have been cremated by its various divisions. All this, presents a grim picture of the national capital, and establishes that the Covid-19 catastrophe unfolding in Delhi is only one of its kind.
According to Delhi government coronavirus app, the city has a total 9,444 Covid-19 beds, out of which 5,096 beds have been occupied majorly in private hospitals, and 4,348 beds are lying vacant, mostly in government hospitals. Lok Nayak hospital has 1,130 vacant beds and Guru Teg Bahadur hospital has 1,297 vacant beds.
Doctors predict the onslaught of the viral infection will continue and many gaps in the infrastructure in the nation capital would aggravate the health crisis.
Indian Medical Association President Rajan Sharma said: "Amid this health crisis, private hospitals have been made a villain, by terming them black-marketeers. And the doctors have been pitted against the public.
"The Delhi government needs to have an inclusive approach and not a piecemeal approach, and immediately call for stakeholder meet. Testing has to be prioritised and we need to prepare the Covd-19 crisis. The government could decongest highly dense areas, take people into confidence and settle people elsewhere to save lives."
The capital's medical professional workforce has already been exhausted with the continuing upward trajectory of growth of cases, which has created tremendous pressure on the health infrastructure. As a result, the ongoing health crisis was converted into a political fight between the Delhi government and Lt Governor. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday in a video message on Twitter said the city was "in big trouble", as hundreds of cases continue to grow every day. He announced that the city's public and private hospitals will only cater to patients who are residents of the city. The Lt Governor rescinded the order on Monday.
Kaushal Kant Mishra, orthopaedic surgeon at Primus Super Speciality Hospital, said: "The Delhi government should take control of all the hospitals during this crisis, and then categorise them Covid and non-Covid hospitals. All citizens must be made aware of these two categories of hospitals."
Justifying the 5.5 lakh figures of Covid-19 cases by July end, Mishra added to prepare for the future, Delhi government should control all open spaces and stadiums, as the private and public hospitals have limited capacity. "We need 1 lakh beds, and we have only 25,000 beds. 90 per cent do not require serious monitoring. Open-air temporary hospitals are the solution," he added.
A senior citizen, residing in south Delhi, whose husband contracted the viral infection, said it was extremely difficult to find a bed in the private hospital. Asked why she chose a private hospital over government hospital, she said: "Of course, private hospitals are clean and offer better services."
A representative of Fortis Healthcare said: "Fortis Healthcare is treating Covid patients across most of our hospitals across India. In Delhi-NCR, we currently have 400 isolation and ICU beds across 6 hospitals that are dedicated for Covid confirmed and suspect patients.
"We are making necessary infrastructure changes to add 200 additional isolation beds shortly. All our units have a special task force which monitors the situation and focuses on protocols for patient care, sterilization, infection control, infra, medical equipment and PPE requirements, staff rotations, quarantines, and responsible waste disposal."
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])