There is constant fear among the frontline health workers in India that the system is under severe stress and can crumble anytime in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic. India is a country that spends just over 1% of its GDP in health infrastructure. Hundreds of people lining up from different parts of the country outside hospitals like AIIMS, RML, GTB etc. is testament to our governments failing to provide affordable basic healthcare facilities to people. Even before the pandemic hit the country, there was 82% shortage of specialists and professionals in all government hospitals. Same goes for lab technicians, nurses and pharmacists.
Now, the covid-19 pandemic has tested and even defeated the health facilities of countries that provide the best healthcare in the world. Even in countries like Italy, Spain, United States and France; hospitals were continuously running out of staff, beds, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, medicines and many other essentials. There was a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and other medical staff to attend the admitted patients and then treatment was eventually handed out in priority basis.
Now consider the nightmare scenario India is currently in. Already the number of positive cases are rising exponentially with no signs of slowing down or even flattening. The ICUs and general wards of Delhi and Mumbai hospitals are almost full. Patients are being denied admission and treatment even for the most serious cases. There are harrowing reports of people struggling to get a hospital bed including many grieving relatives saying that their loved ones died at the doorsteps of hospitals. In some cases, people even visited 6-7 hospitals and were still denied admission citing non availability of beds.
And the misery persists even after death. Dozens of grieving men and women keep waiting outside hospitals throughout the day to identify the bodies of their loved ones who died due to COVID-19. Bodies are pilling up in hospital wards. There are chilling visuals of dead bodies left unattended by the hospital staff along with the patients. The relatives are handed over wrong bodies and patients are dangling out of their beds. These sights are becoming increasingly common in government hospitals all across the country.
After receiving hundreds of public interest litigations and taking suo moto cognizance after looking at numerous reports of gross violations of human rights, the high courts and the Supreme Court have come down heavily on central and state governments. The Supreme Court said that the situation is “horrendous” with respect to the handling of Covid-19 patients in Delhi, the capital city, and that the patients are being treated “worse than animals”. The court also slammed the Delhi government on mishandling of the situation and asked them why do the patients have to undergo such pathetic conditions in the hospitals. The situation is more or less the same in the rest of the country too. In Maharashtra, the state which has the maximum number of coronavirus cases, the high court had to direct the government to conduct more tests and increase the number of beds. Many doctors and health experts have said that Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has less than 30 ICU beds remaining.