At Batra Hospital in south Delhi, there were no new admissions on Tuesday
NEW DELHI: The family of Jitender Kathpalia, 51, of Sector 11, Rohini, was frantic. His oxygen level was dipping but searches in hospitals, calls on helplines and SOS posts on social media provided no leads to a hospital bed with oxygen. With no other solution in sight, the family drove him to Chandigarh where he is recuperating. “Only VIPs and people with clout can get a bed in Delhi these days,” muttered one of Kathpalia’s relatives.
With ICU beds in Delhi now all occupied and oxygen beds scarce, desperate patients are being transferred to nearby cities in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. The situation is a reversal of last year when Delhi was the hub for patients from the neighbouring states. As Surender Singh of Vasant Kunj told TOI, “Even though the bed-availability portal showed that some hospitals had a few ICU beds vacant, the ground reality was different. There was none available.”
When Singh’s parents-in-law both reached precarious oxygen levels of 77-78%, the despairing family decided to no longer waste time searching for ICU beds in Delhi and arranged an ambulance to take the two to Gwalior, where relatives had made arrangements at a private hospital. “Some of us stood in a queue for five hours to get an additional oxygen cylinder that we needed for the 7-hour journey to Gwalior,” Singh added.
East of Kailash resident Mukesh Kataria shifted his relative’s four-member infected family to a private hospital in Bathinda, Punjab. “The condition of two was deteriorating. There was no assurance of oxygen from any of the hospitals in NCR despite higher charges being quoted,” Kataria said. The Bathinda stay is costing the patients Rs 8-10,000 per day. “We have also rented a house for the isolation of two family members who were relatively better.”
Balwinder Sareen also helped a friend’s family move to Mohali for treatment. “The couple was living in Gurgaon. When the husband’s SPO2 went down to 88-89%, we drove them in an ambulance to Mohali. The ambulance fare was just Rs14,000, while open loot is going on in Delhi-NCR for ambulances, medicines and hospitals,” alleged Sareen.
Aware of patients from Delhi reaching his state, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh said that any person seeking treatment there would not be denied. Chief secretary Vini Mahajan similarly asked the Punjab health authorities to ensure that outstation patients were treated fairly. Ludhiana and Mohali districts have seen a big influx of patients from outside the state and last week the deputy commissioners of these districts raised the issue of outsiders putting additional pressure on the existing healthcare infrastructure.
Dr G B Singh, director of health services, Punjab government, said that though the health department is not maintaining data on outstation patients, around 20 individuals from Delhi and NCR are admitted in Punjab hospitals every day. “They are given admission on the basis of availability of beds,” the director said.
Chandigarh is an easy choice for many frustrated Delhiites. Neena Gupta, 57, was rushed to the city from Delhi in a private car equipped with an oxygen cylinder. “For two days, I did the rounds of Delhi for a bed for my mother,” said Gupta’s son. “A friend suggested I should book a bed in a Chandigarh hospital. By the time we reached here, her oxygen supply was almost gone, but we got her admitted quickly.”
Chander Thakur, who lives in Ambala district’s Naraingarh, too brought his brother from Faridabad to Chandigarh. “There was no bed available in Delhi or NCR,” he said.
Confirming that patients from Delhi-NCR were recovering in Chandigarh’s hospitals, professor Jagat Ram, director, PGI, said, “We are getting patients from Delhi, mostly those who couldn’t get a bed there. However, we caution kin not to risk the travel to Chandigarh if the patient’s oxygen level is low.”
Many others are opting for hospitals in Gurgaon, Sonipat, Panipat, Hisar, even Panchkula and Ambala. Haryana home and health minister Anil Vij insisted that at least 40% of the patients in Covid facilities in Haryana were from Delhi and UP. “We take a humane approach, so don’t bar patients from outside our state. Whether in private or government hospitals, you will find a substantial number of patients from Delhi and NCR cities,” said Vij.
At present, Gurgaon has 2,447 Covid patients in its hospitals, of whom only 979 are Gurgaon residents. The rest include 1,027 reportedly from Delhi, 195 from UP and 246 from other states.
Hospitals in UP are also being accessed. There are 40 Covid patients, including 13 women from Delhi, recovering in a private hospital in Mathura. Richa Srivastava, who lives in Dwarka in southwest Delhi, said she had to admit her husband in Nayati Hospital in Mathura after failing to find a bed in Delhi. “After testing positive, he was in home isolation when he began suffering breathlessness. But there was no bed available, so our relatives managed one in Mathura,” explained Srivastava.
At least 10 Delhi residents are admitted in Anand Hospital in Meerut. According to Dr Subhash Yadav, “The patients from Delhi approached us through references either from a known person or the administration.”
(Inputs from Agra, Meerut, Haryana and Punjab)