Four hospitals refused Patel, who is seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child, before she finally found one who would take him. But the standard of care at Sardar Patel Covid Care Center and Hospital, a makeshift pandemic facility on the outskirts of the capital, is so lacking that her husband begs to leave.
Around Sadanand Patel, 30, people are dying. He has virtually no contact with doctors and little medicine. With 80% of his lungs already infected, he is terrified of what will happen if his condition worsens.
“I’m very scared,” Sadanand said Saturday from his hospital bed, thanks to labored breathing. “If my health becomes critical, I don’t think they will be able to save me.”
Only a few Covid-19 patients manage to get admitted to India’s overcrowded hospitals. But once inside, some face a different kind of terror: a lack of medical care or supplies as people die around them.
Race against time
Sadanand was admitted the day after the hospital opened. When Goldi visited a few days later, the facility was packed, she said.
In the cavernous warehouse-style building, some patients are lying on cardboard beds. Medication is limited and Sadanand said he has only interacted with a doctor once or twice in three days. since its admission last Tuesday. He saw two men in nearby beds screaming for the drugs to die only in the hours when their oxygen seemed to be running out.
Saturday, his fifth day at the center, at least five people around him died, he said. A corpse lay on the bed next to hers for hours before it was removed.
But this goal does not match Sadanand’s experience.
“The government thinks it has opened this hospital, the patients here are being treated,” he said. “But in fact, nothing like that is happening.”
Doctors rarely screen patients, Sadanand said. He fears that if he needed medical attention, he would be too sick to seek help. Sometimes he talks with a patient in a nearby bed who has advised him to get out of the center if he still feels a little better.
“You will die lying on your bed because there is no one to call the doctor,” he says.
Others have had the same experience. Sarita Saxena told CNN on Friday that her brother-in-law was admitted to the center after being turned away from at least seven hospitals. She doesn’t believe that no doctor treats patients – the only people who care for them are family and friends. These people are at risk of catching Covid because there are no walls in the center to stop the spread.
Others outside the hospital are so worried about the lack of care that they try to get their loved ones out.
Sadanand says he is so scared that he has repeatedly asked a doctor to transfer him to another hospital. He made the same call to his wife – but nowhere else will he get it, Goldi says.
“He was asking me to take him away from this place, that he will stay at home, he does not feel good here and he is very scared,” Goldi said on Saturday.
“I kept trying to explain that if you stay here, at least you will get oxygen.”
Decreased oxygen supply
Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College (LLRM), a hospital in the town of Meerut, in neighboring Uttar Pradesh, is inundated.
People are everywhere – on stretchers, on tables, on the floor – moaning and desperate for oxygen. There are about 55 beds for every 100 patients, according to hospital staff. There are only five doctors. Some patients are lying on the floor.
One of them is Kavita, 32, a mother of two, who does not have a last name. She has been on the hospital floor for four days, struggling to breathe. She says she was not given oxygen and has seen 20 people die.
“I’m getting anxious,” she says. “I’m afraid to stop breathing,” she says.
Other countries have sent oxygen cylinders and concentrators to India that can help produce oxygen, and the government is delivering supplies across the country using its network of trains. Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday there was enough oxygen in the country and there was no need to panic.
“Oxygen was available in sufficient quantity earlier and now there is even more of it,” he told reporters outside a hospital. “We have so many more sources of oxygen available in the country … Anyone who needs oxygen should get it.”
But hospitals are still struggling.
Some hospitals have tweeted SOS messages, tagging official accounts as they plead for more oxygen to help patients run out of air.
Family members of patients stand in line for hours outside oxygen filling centers, holding empty oxygen cylinders. Twelve people – including a doctor – died in a New Delhi hospital on Saturday after the facility ran out of oxygen, according to Dr SCL Gupta, medical director of Batra hospital.
Some hospitals have warned patients that if they want to be admitted for treatment, they will need to get their own oxygen.
“We have now told patients before admitting them that they might have to get their own oxygen in an emergency if they are admitted here,” said Poonam Goyal, chief medical officer at Panchsheel Hospital in the North Delhi. Saturday.
Outside the LLRM, relatives of patients came and went while waiting for the news. Inside, LLRM administrator Dr Gyanendra Kumar said the hospital had enough oxygen but was understaffed.
“We are not turning anyone away,” he said. “Before the coronavirus I had never seen a crisis like this, but this crisis I think we are handling it well.”
Lack of medicine
Although Goldi Patel is relieved that her husband is receiving oxygen, she worries about his general condition – without drugs to treat her lung infection, the damage has spread to 80% of her lungs, according to a CT scan.
Every time he sits he starts to cough violently and the pain tears his chest, she says. At the hospital, he gave her food, water and oxygen, but little medicine – hospital staff gave her antibiotics after telling staff that she would kill herself. On Friday, she went to the center to bring medicine for her husband, who is the sole breadwinner in their family.
“With oxygen, treatment is just as necessary,” Sadanand said. “You can’t just live with the hope that if you get oxygen, you’ll be fine.”
Dr Chandrasekhar Singha, senior pediatric intensive care consultant at Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital in New Delhi, said a patient infected in 80% of their lungs should have their infection treated with antivirals, steroids and antibiotics , in addition to oxygen. “By giving oxygen, you save time,” he said, speaking in general, adding that 80% of the infection “didn’t look good”.
Every two or three hours, Goldi calls her husband. They only speak for a few minutes before his breathing becomes difficult.
“It sounds dangerous,” she said. “I don’t make him talk too much. I’m tense all day.”
Goldi is afraid for herself – she is seven months pregnant and does not know if she has Covid. She has no symptoms, but has not been tested as it would cost 900 rupees ($ 12). Still, she says, she needs to support her husband. Their parents both live in Uttar Pradesh and have no other support.
Both are frustrated by the authorities’ ineffective response. Sadanand said that if he thought he was being treated properly, he would not have involved his wife at all.
“If someone was admitted and their treatment had started, you would never want your pregnant wife to go outside during Covid cases to (try to find a facility) for you,” he said. “In your mind, you will always be worried about what will happen if she catches coronavirus.”
Julia Hollingsworth has written and reported from Hong Kong. Sandi Sidhu reported from Hong Kong. Tanya Jain reported from Gurgaon, India. Elizabeth Joseph and Clarissa Ward reported from Meerut, India. Vedika Sud, Manveena Suri, Swati Gupta and Esha Mitra reported from New Delhi, India.