Where are the Hospital Beds?

As the number of people requiring hospitalization multiply steadily, where are the hospital beds? The confusion, gate-keeping, and mismanagement of health facilities signals worsening of the pandemic crisis.


If one word could describe the healthcare system in India at present, it would be “chaos”. The CoronaVirus peak is yet elusive, while the number of cases climb even as lockdown restrictions are being eased in most parts of the country. A huge number of people thronged to Marine Drive, Mumbai, on June 6, 2020 as restrictions on outdoor activities are being eased in Maharashtra.This, while there are 25,940 active cases in the city as of June 7, 2020.

Every day, there are stories and frantic appeals on social media from patients and their kin about non-availability of hospitals in different parts of the country. The Delhi State Government even launched an app (called Delhi Corona) to help people access the nearest hospital with available beds, but public testimonialson several media platforms including DNA, Livemint and Scroll, about the accuracy of the app are not positive. A citizen-led website called charitybeds.com is now tracking the availability from crowdsourced information.

In Mumbai, netizens are reporting the existence of empty hospitals which are lying shut when they could have been used, like the enormousESIC Hospital in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, among others. While Chennai private hospitals have almost run out of beds, in Delhi, the ones with availability are demanding upwards of Rs. 4 Lakh in deposit before admission.



The Delhi State Government has complicated things further by issuing a notice on June 7, 2020, whereby only the bona-fide residents of Delhi will be able to access medical care from Delhi hospitals.



In the midst of all this, ad campaigns starring the usual Bollywood stars are encouraging people to step out without fear and conveying that if one happens to contract COVID-19 despite precautions, the Government healthcare services would take care of you. I have only one question for these campaigns- “Where are the Hospital beds?”

Pregnant women are dying while being shuttled from one hospital to the other for hours in search of availability of beds, while people who need to visit hospitals for chemotherapy are being denied COVID tests which puts them at mortal risk as chemotherapy can be lethal in a COVID positive patient (reported in the Times of India). People suffering from immunocompromising illnesses like Lupus, or those who need any kind of urgent hospitalization are in a Catch-22 situation as going to a hospital could mean possibly contracting COVID-19 which would affect them disproportionately, or not go to a hospital, worse- be denied admission due to lack of beds and put their health in a dire or even lethal position.

As a former Public Health professional- the cruel gatekeeping, disconnected bureaucracy, and utter mismanagement does not come as a shock. India’s infrastructure and governance has never been geared towards efficiency, or accessibility. In the end, it all boils down to money. If you are poor, or do not have a source of income during the lockdown, or are unable to afford medical expenses, you cannot afford to contract COVID. On the flip side, since you cannot possibly survive without an income, you will have to step out eventually to earn a living and cannot afford to continue a self-imposed lockdown- hence putting yourself at risk for COVID. Everybody who is not “rich”, is being set up for immense risk.

The lockdown (with its multiple extensions) was supposed to give the healthcare infrastructure time for preparedness. After 2.5 months, certainly no one was expecting a miracle, but we were hoping it would not be a debacle, which the current state of chaos seems to suggest. We need, urgently, to strengthen communication systems, demand accountability, utilize every single resource we have including empty hospitals, demand for COVID-19 testing, demand free treatment in hospitals, and save lives. We have lost too many people to this crisis, and we are far from flattening any sort of curve even as authorities continue to be in denial about the extent of community transmission. If you can afford to, stay home, because someone out there can’t afford to, their life is on the line- and their life is as important as yours.


Related Articles:

Two pregnant women die after being denied proper medical care
Quarantine facilities across the country crumbling apart show findings
Fake machines, theft and apathy mar Gujarat’s Covid-19 fight





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