‘Many of us have lost faith in the system, we feel alone, with no one to take care of us’

Shortage of beds, crowded hospitals, overworked health workers, fear of disease, worry of not getting help ails many

FOR A prominent and internationally respected historian of Chandigarh, the last few days have been harrowing to say the least. His family and he tested positive for Covid-19, with his wife’s oxygen levels dropping consistently, the family running from one hospital to another, no availability of rooms in hospitals. The incident has raised many questions about how common people can reach out for assistance or help in such cases of medical emergencies, which are increasing. Apart from the fear of the virus, a sharp spike in cases and a complete opening up of the city, it’s the fear of not getting help, treatment and shortage of hospital beds that is consuming many.

This is not an isolated case, as a businessman from Manimajra recounts how his 30-year-old brother, who tested positive, after many phone calls was admitted to a private hospital, and was told to go home after two days, despite his CT scan and X-Ray indicating severe infection. “We scrambled to another hospital, with one quoting a package of Rs 3.5 lakh, till someone who was well-connected and known to us, got us a room in a reputed private hospital, where my brother is recovering. At that time, when you or your loved one is in a medical emergency, you feel so helpless about not being able to help, for you don’t know where to go, whom to approach, as there seem to be no clear guidelines by the authorities on what to do. For a common person, who doesn’t know how the disease can affect him or her, it is a very scary situation for you don’t trust the system you are in. I think many of us have lost faith in the system, and feel we are alone, with no one to take care of us.”

With government hospitals in the city overburdened with not just patients from the city, but from other states, availability of beds is becoming a persistent problem. The Covid wing at the PGIMER has more than 200 beds, 160 non-ICU and 40 ICU, with oxygen and ventilators, and there are already 230 patients in NHE, with 28 patients in the ICU, with many non-Covid patients coming to the emergency, later testing positive and then shifting to NHE.

According to a doctor, the emergency\trauma section of the hospital has a bed capacity of 100, with patients always exceeding the number of beds, and the same is the case with the medical emergency, which has 110 beds, with as many as 185 patients waiting for treatment. Similarly, the cardiac and paediatric emergency facilities are also full.

The GMCH-32 has also created an additional facility of 155 beds for Covid patients, in addition to the existing 100 beds. A source in PGI shares how there is tremendous pressure on the institution, with plans to convert three private wards, 3 A, 4 A and 5 A into areas for Covid patients. “We have been told to convert the Infosys Sarai into a Covid hospital, so that 200 more patients can be accommodated. This Sarai is used to quarantine hospital attendants and sanitation workers from the hospital, where will we send these workers? Also, with some many doctors and health workers testing positive, how are we expected to take care of the modalities of this new proposed place?” he asked.

“The GMCH-32 and Sector 48 Hospital have about 200 beds for Covid patients, but then there are so many patients from other states seeking treatment here, that they can only take only very critical patients, hence there is always a shortage of beds and so there is no choice but to seek treatment in private hospitals. I tested positive for Covid and was critical with low oxygen levels and after a lot of difficulty, got admission in a private hospital, where I had to wait for two days for a CT scan, despite the doctor’s instructions. There was complete lack of care, and for three days, I was given a bill of Rs 50,000. With the help of a friend, I was shifted to another reputed hospital, where I was attended to with great care and after a week of being on oxygen, I am finally home. For a common person, it is next to impossible to seek treatment and help, for the system is completely out of place,” said a local journalist, who plans to take up the matter with the authorities.

A senior medical equipment distributor shared how his friend, whose relative was admitted at a private hospital, was called and told that his patient had passed away. “When they reached the hospital, the name of the patient on the papers was wrong, and they realised they had pronounced the wrong person dead and also called up his family. Apart from the shortage of beds, the price of a private room per day can range from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000, not inclusive of the treatment cost. And now, slowly and steadily, we are facing a shortage of oxygen in Punjab, with cylinders being sold at five to six times the original cost.”

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