Delhi’s fight against coronavirus is getting weaker by the day and fudging of figures and mishandling of the migrant crisis has started reflecting in the spurt in cases and shortage of medical facilities.
Nearly 40% of Delhi’s Covid-19 infections have been recorded in the first 10 days of June. On top of it there is a possibility that the city will fall short of arranging 80,000 beds for almost half a million corona cases that are likely to surface in the national capital by July end.
The poor state of preparations in Delhi hospitals also caught the attention of the Supreme Court which pulled up the state government over "horrendous, horrific and pathetic" situation at a time of a spike in coronavirus cases and said patients are being treated "worse than animals".
Questioning the drop in number of tests being conducted to detect coronavirus in the city, the apex court said, “Patients are dying and nobody is there to even attend to them."
A shroud of mystery has also surrounded the official figure on the number of Covid deaths with the AAP-led Delhi government’s figure of about 1,085 being virtually repudiated by the BJP-controlled Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) when it claimed that 2,098 bodies of Covid-19 patients have been cremated by various crematoriums run by it.
Officials say half of Delhi's 8,200 hospital beds demarcated for admitting corona patients are already full and there are cases galore of private hospitals willing to take in patients only if they buy a multi-day stay package which costs upwards of Rs 3 lakh. Cases of refusal of admission to patients at government hospitals are also coming to light, just as incidents of ailing people losing their lives while waiting at hospital doorsteps to get a bed for corona treatment. Patients requiring dialysis, blood transfusion or chemotherapy at private hospitals are being asked to shell out Rs 2-3 lakh for procedures that cost between Rs 10,000-20,000 per session before the Covid crisis. The spurt in Covid cases is posing a bigger challenge for patients with other life-threatening diseases to receive care and the situation is going to get worse once the monsoon arrives next month and brings with it seasonal diseases like dengue and malaria, diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.
While the Delhi government claims to be doing its best, there are sceptics who question the delay it showed in screening incoming travellers at airport before the nationwide lockdown began on March 25.
The lot of frontline warriors, including doctors and nurses, is also not good as they feel the increasing pressure of rising corona cases. Apart from lack of personal protective equipment for health workers, non-payment of salaries in a civic hospital is also causing problems to doctors. Doctors at Kasturba Hospital have claimed that they have not been paid salaries for the past three months and have sought urgent intervention of the authorities to clear their dues.
In a related matter in the Supreme Court over non-payment of salaries to doctors, the court said, "It is kind of a war. You do not keep soldiers unhappy during war. So travel the extra mile to make the corona warriors feel safe.”
At a time when the Delhi government's official figures put the total number of confirmed cases of infection at 34,687, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s attempt to disallow patients from other states from availing medical care in city government hospitals has been struck down.
After L-G has reversed the Kejriwal government’s proposal to reserve city hospital beds only for Delhiites, the AAP government is worried. It says the decision of opening the hospitals for all may give a hard time to residents of Capital in the coming days. A Delhi Cabinet minister asked recently, “When people from the outside start coming to Delhi and the available beds get filled up within 2, 4, or 10 days then who will take the responsibility of the situation?”
The trend has shown that the way in Delhi the numbers are increasing the situation might get even more challenging for the Delhi government if patients from other states come into city’s hospital.
“By June 15, 6,600 beds will be needed in Delhi as there'll be 44,000 Covid-19 cases. By June 30, there will be one lakh cases and 15,000 beds will be required. By July 15, there'll be 2.25 lakh cases and 33,000 beds will be required. By July 31, 5.5 lakh cases are expected and 80,000 beds will be required," said Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, adding that this estimation is based on the assumption that Delhi borders are sealed and only city residents come for treatment.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain had recently said, "In the private hospitals of Delhi, at any given time, nearly 50% of people come from outside, and in the government hospitals of Delhi, nearly 70% of people come from outside. During the lockdown in both private and government hospitals, the occupancy of people from outside was 10% and only the planned surgeries were happening. This could have been continued for some time but the L-G has not agreed to this.”
Experts say the planning and arrangements for tackling the pandemic in Delhi may go out of control if true figures on testing and deaths are not maintained. If the Delhi government doesn’t fix this, the data will get progressively less reliable, making any kind of planning redundant.
In the coming days the Delhi government is considering to use spaces like Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Tyagraj Stadium, JLN Stadium, Pragati Maidan exhibition area to make large makeshift medical facilities to accommodate Covid-19 patients. It has also been decided to utilise banquet halls, marriage places and large hotels to ramp up the facilities.
A lot of critical decisions will have to be taken in the coming few days and L-G Anil Baijal has advised the officers concerned to invoke Section 50 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 for expeditious procurement and timely setting up of required infrastructure.
It won’t be surprising if people start questioning the authorities over their dubious intentions for delaying critical decision to gear the city for a Covid explosion. The balance between preventing panic by making assuring statements before public and presenting a true picture of the crisis at the ground level is going to be the key in Delhi’s fight against pandemic. Shortage of beds, ventilators or frontline warriors would start reflecting once the AAP government corrects is corona case and death reporting daily. Hopefully, the situation is going to be brought under control over the next few weeks and patients who are dying due to denial of admission to hospitals would get access to new makeshift facilities at stadiums, banquet halls and hotels that would take shape quickly over the next few days.