By Dr. Arun Sharma
Today India is facing an unprecedented pandemic – 2nd wave of Covid 19. Delhi is one of the biggest sufferer of this disease. Now, with the steeply rising positivity rate, I feel you are negative until tested.
The ward and ICU beds of all hospitals are full. The patients are waiting for hours outside hospitals in the hope of getting a bed and oxygen. One can gauze the precarious situation of bed supply from the fact that many senior bureaucrats were also not able to get a bed immediately on requirement. Even an ex health secretary to the Government of India had a tough time to get a bed and it took him more than 24 hours. This should make us understand that the present situation is really very unfortunate and unparalled in the modern history of India. The plight of attendants falling into the feet of doctors and other healthcare workers for a bed for their loved ones is deplorable. Physicians and the management is helpless in this regard. Even the most kind person on earth can’t do much in this hour of need for such hapless patients. This is the first time when we see that affluent and impoverished, both are being treated almost equally in the eyes of Covid 19.
If a Covid patient in ward deteriorates, he will most likely not get a ventilator or a bed in ICU as it’s already jammed.
The doctors and nurses are overworked with the voluminous number of patients to deal with alongwith the stress of PPE. A substantial number of healthcare workers are on the verge of mental breakdown. If this was not enough, paperwork too has increased substantially. The case summaries are required alongwith requisition request for Remdesvir injections and plasma. Most hospitals have manpower in accordance with their occupancy ratio which is never 100 precent. Now, the hospitals are more than 100 precent occupied with serious patients. Another major issue plaguing the hospitals is the increasing number of staff contracting the disease. This adds to the staff shortage in the hospitals. Doctors from all specialities are being drawn for help to increase the number of working hands. The government and industry can expedite the availability of infrastructure but healthcare staff can’t be created overnight. All plaudits for healthcare staff are nowhere in front of the tremendous efforts by them to manage this surge of patients.
The phones of all doctors are constantly ringing from calls of their relatives, friends and patients requesting them to arrange a Covid bed.
The non covid serious patients suffering from other ailments further suffer due to the ongoing pandemic. Firstly, they don’t get a bed in ICU due to non availability. Secondly, they are viewed as covid suspects until their Covid RT-PCR report comes negative. Thirdly, all this delays the definitive treatment of such patients. Fourthly, they are at a risk of contracting the covid infection if their stay in the hospital gets prolonged.
Ambulances are charging exorbitant rates for transfer of patients. Oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators which were being sold at significantly higher prices have now vanished from the market. So, the possibility of managing borderline patients at home have also become remote. Remdesvir injections were being sold at upto twenty thousand rupees per vial. At one point, it also vanished from the market and is still under controlled supply.
Where did we falter? Despite all epidemiological models predicting a severe second wave, neither adequate arrangements were done nor warnings issued. We should have learnt from the experiences of other nations and prepared accordingly for this contingency. Our country spends a minimal percentage of GDP on healthcare. We went into euphoria of surviving the first wave of covid. This slackness has resulted in a disaster of great magnitude. As an emergency measure, we are seeing that some governments are allotting land to make crematoriums. Had the adequate measures been taken on time and built up healthcare infrastructure, such a need to build emergency crematoriums won’t have arisen. The horrendous memories of this disease will remain etched in the survivors and loved ones of the victims for the decades to come.
Regrettably, the sufferings don’t end here. If a patient doesn’t survive the covid onslaught, he is taken to the crematorium where again he has to wait for hours for his turn. There is scarcity of place, wood and time. Some are making heyday, here as well and asking for money to reduce the waiting time and expedite the process. Is money everything? We need to reconsider the meaning of human life and realign it to become a better soul.
Last but not the least, we all should maintain positive attitude as the majority of our brethren have and shall survive this great pandemic.
In this hour of grave suffering we have forgotten caste, creed, religion, region and even political affiliation. Today again, humanity remains foremost as it has always been in natural disasters. Humanity came before these man made divisions and it shall always remain forever.
Credits: Dr Arun Sharma, Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.