A patient who was battling kidney-related ailment died after the Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Hospital removed the essential ventilator support amid the mounting numbers of coronavirus patients. Shahjahan, a 40-year-old female patient, was admitted to the hospital eight days ago where the doctors found that she had developed the Chronic Kidney Disease along with Hypothyroidism and recommended ventilator support. After a week of ventilator support, the doctors discontinued the support and transferred her to the Safdarjung Hospital where the staff allegedly refused admission to her.
Speaking to NewsClick, her relative Mohd Khalid said, “She was admitted to the hospital after she complained of uneasiness in breathing. The family took her to the hospital where she was put on a ventilator. However, we were told on Tuesday that they could not continue the ventilator support as the government has designated it to treat only the coronavirus patients and transferred her to the Safdarjung hospital. When we reached Safdarjung, they said that they were only admitting coronavirus patients too. We approached AIIMS too, but to no avail. With no options left, we brought her home last night where she breathed her last at around 6 in the morning.”
The death incited strong reactions from the public health activists who remarked that the step was akin to murdering people. Ashok Agarwal, a prominent activist, who has been helping patients to access affordable healthcare, said, “The government cannot do this to its citizens. The patient’s death was inevitable after the hospital denied essential service like ventilators. So far, we know only about this case, but there must be more patients from G B Pant Hospital and LNJP hospital, to whom this behaviour has been meted out.”
The death of Shahjahan contradicts the claim of Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain who had said the state has 300 ventilators dedicated for coronavirus patients. However, only eight patients have been put on ventilators so far.
The death has brought forth realities of the crumbling health infrastructure in times of a pandemic. Public health organisations maintain that India may need more than one million ventilators against the estimated existing strength of 57,000. The Health Ministry does not have an official number of ventilators available in the country. Facing heat over low number of ventilators, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that it has ordered the public sector undertaking Bharat Electrical Limited to manufacture 30,000 ventilators.
Similarly, there are 7,13,986 government hospital beds available in India with the ratio of 0.55 beds per 1000 people. The low availability of beds in the hospitals can translate into a catastrophe if the COVID-19 crisis worsens. Epidemiologists argue that the country may face as many as 2.2 million cases which implies that we will need 110,000 to 220,000 ventilators.
Latest figures by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare suggest that the country's official count of coronavirus infections has climbed up to 5,274 deaths with 149 deaths and 4,714 active cases. The ministry officials said that 71 of the patients are foreign nationals. Maharashtra remains worst-hit with 1,018 cases making it the first state in the country to report more than 1,000 coronavirus cases along with 64 deaths.
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