Is it enough to be ‘not as bad as Italy or France’?

Guj gov’t in image management mode after HC rap, even as Ahmedabad Civil Hospital remains in the eye of the storm

GujaratImage Courtesy:economictimes

After the Gujarat government tried to “discreetly” move High Court on Monday, allegedly without informing lawyers of the litigants in the case or even the amicus curiae, it has emerged that the Gujarat government had allegedly tried to downplay the malaise in the healthcare system.

The Indian Express reported that in the application moved before the court on May 25, which was incidentally a holiday on account of Eid, the Gujarat government has allegedly said, that Ahmedabad’s Covid-19 situation was at least better than Italy or France. The government application reportedly said, “…the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases has been substantially slow in the state as compared to the said countries.” It added, “Similarly, the number of deaths has been substantially less in Gujarat as compared to Italy and France.”

The comparison to Italy and France was drawn because of a similarity in population size. Gujarat has over 6 crore people. As per the Gujarat Government’s own Covid-19 portal, at the time of publishing this story, total confirmed cases stood at 14,891, out of whom 7,139 people had recovered and 915 people had succumbed to the virus. Based on these figures, the death rate (number of dead vis a vis number of infected) stands at 6.17 percent.

Looking at the figures for Ahmedabad, a city with over 55 lakh people, we find that so far there are 10,841 confirmed cases out of which 4,623 people have recovered and 745 people have died. Based on these figures, the death rate is 6.87 percent.

When it comes to Italy, a country of over 6 crore people and therefore comparable population, there are over 2,31,000 confirmed cases of which over 1,45,000 people have recovered so far. Italy has reported close to 33,000 deaths so far. The death rate therefore stands at a higher 14.28 percent.

In France, a country of nearly 7 crore people, total number of confirmed cases stands at over 1,46,000 cases, out of whom over 65,000 have recovered and over 28,500 people have succumbed to the disease. Thus, their death rate stands at 19.52 percent.

While it is easy to draw comparisons based on size of population and claim victory despite the said countries have better healthcare facilities, it is important to note that the only relevant statistics that need to be compared pertain to number of people tested.

According to the Gujarat government’s Covid website (, the state has tested 1,98,313 people so far. A total of 74,319 people have been tested in the city so far in Ahmedabad. Meanwhile, according to Italy has tested 35,39,927 people and France has tested 13,84,000 people so far.

When more people are tested, more incidences of the disease can be diagnosed and treated. Often people who are asymptomatic could carry the virus and while they may not succumb to it, they can easily pass the disease to others who may be more vulnerable on account of reduced immunity, age or comorbidity factors.

Therefore, comparing Gujarat or Ahmedabad to Italy and France is not only an example of comparing apples to oranges, but also suggests that the administration is more interested in image management than actually improving healthcare infrastructure.

Even in its previous report in response to a May 16 HC order, the Gujarat government had squarely blamed private hospitals for refusing to become Covid care facilities and thereby placing a strain on the government’s resources. But that did not impress the High Court as it failed to explain the shoddy infrastructure in and poor management of government run facilities in the first place. A case in point was the number of deaths and poor infrastructure in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. In a May 22 order, the Gujarat High Court had described the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital as “as good as a dungeon, maybe even worse”.  

In fact, after the special hearing on Monday, the Gujarat HC put authorities on alert saying, “We sound a note of caution. The superintendent of the Civil Hospital and other authorities of the Health Department of Gujarat shall keep themselves ready to find our presence one fine morning on a given day in the Civil Hospital.”

The matter of ‘faulty/fake’ ventilators is still fresh as it turns out Dhaman-1 ventilators, donated to the hospital by a Rajkot based businessman, were allegedly not ventilators at all but a type of Artificial Manual Breathing Unit (AMBU) bags. The controversy had erupted when these ‘made in India’ ventilators proved ineffective in the care of Covid-19 patients. It also emerged that they had not only been inadequately tested, but also lacked certification from the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI).

Amit Chavda, president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), who has been spearheading the campaign against the allegedly ‘fake’ ventilators tweeted that the hospital superintendent had also accepted that their performance was not up to the mark.

He told Indian Express, “The doctors at the civil hospital have clearly accepted that Dhaman-1 is not a ventilator but an AMBU (Artificial Manual Breathing Unit) bag that they are using to provide oxygen supply. They confirmed that they cannot use Dhaman-1 as a ventilator and still, the chief minister has been stating the contrary, a false claim that Dhaman-1 is a ventilator.”

In its May 22 order, the Gujarat High Court had also pulled up the state government on the subject of ventilators at the Ahmedabad Civl Hospital saying, “We wonder how many times the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has paid visit to the Civil Hospital? Is the State Government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the State Government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?”


Ahmedabad Civil Hospital “as good as a dungeon”: Guj HC slams state gov’t
Fake machines, theft and apathy mar Gujarat’s Covid-19 fight
Gujarat reopens: Have economic considerations overtaken health concerns?
Healthcare crisis brewing in Ahmedabad



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