Who is to blame?

The Govt may insist there are beds but patients run from pillar to post to get themselves admitted. That, too, at a high price

It is the same old story that repeats itself in India, each time there is a crisis. And that is profiteering by unscrupulous elements. When the pandemic began, we witnessed a shortage and black marketeering of hand sanitisers, masks and liquid hand soaps. Thankfully this was brought under control by the authorities. Now, with the opening up of the economy and the surge in Coronavirus cases, we are facing a shortage of hospital beds, despite the Centre and State Governments assuring the citizens repeatedly that there are enough beds and that people need not worry or panic. If the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Union Health Ministry are to be believed, then only five to 6.3 per cent of patients affected by COVID-19 require hospitalisation. Out of these, about 2.94 per cent needed oxygen support, three per cent intense care units and 0.45 per cent ventilator support. As on June 6, Delhi had 27,654 active cases and if we take the upper limit of patients needing beds, then the capital should need around 1,700 beds out of the 5,000 beds that the city Government says it has. Then why is there such a fight for beds in hospitals in Delhi and NCR? Is this because they are being kept for VVIPs or those who can afford to pay premium prices? Or is it that the number of patients needing hospitalisation that is being bandied about by the ICMR and Union Health Ministry is flawed? A bit of both really. While the ICMR’s assessment disputes State figures, which show that about 30 per cent patients need hospitalisation, private hospitals are known to be insisting on full down payment first before admission for either evaluation or critical care. Besides, each private facility has its own rate card, forcing patients to seek more affordable Government facilities.

Everyone knows that private hospitals are none too kind to patients and have no qualms in handing them big fat bills or turning away the poor. They have also been known to charge multiple patients for the same PPE that is worn by a doctor to check numerous people and been insisting on implementing their own testing protocols rather than that of Government approved laboratories. Now, the Delhi Government, which has been inundated with complaints of Corona patients not getting beds, has instructed hospitals to discharge all mild and asymptomatic patients and not admit such cases in the future. This is in keeping with the practice being followed by most nations. As we go into the next few months, with the expected surge in COVID-19 cases, one only hopes that the Centre, States and the healthcare stakeholders get their act together and see to it that there are no unnecessary casualties for lack of beds which otherwise are said to be lying vacant. For once, one hopes that it will be people first, not politics, pull or profits.

Source: The Pioneer