The shortage of oxygen beds and ventilators in several states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and even Maharashtra has exposed the government’s laxity. But it doesn’t end here. The bitter truth is that the increasing prices courtesy of the black market, fake injections, and shortage of hospital beds are depleting low-income groups. The impact of India’s COVID-19 crisis on the poor is unraveling.
From unanswered phone lines to hoarding of oxygen beds for VIPs, here’s what India’s poor are claiming.
Ground Reality In Uttar Pradesh
Atul Singh*, a resident of Uttar Pradesh has been awaiting a call from the UP government’s COVID control room for over 36 hours. “My father is on a ventilator in Jhansi. I called the UP Government’s COVID Control Room for getting my father admitted to KGMU. The process of registering myself was easy and they promised me that I will receive a call soon. But it’s been 36hrs and I have not yet received any call. My father is breathing his last breaths.”
Another resident of Delhi, Rahul Vaidya*, who works as a government servant, has been trying to get in touch with hospitals across Delhi. He says, “Ninety percent of them are switched off, and those who answer say that they cannot help in getting anyone admitted.” However, Vaidya claims that he’s aware that beds are available, but are being kept vacant for VIPs or for offer at higher prices. “There are beds but due to black marketing, the public is unable to find any,” he says.
Several media reports indicate that especially in UP and Delhi, middlemen are asking helpless patients to pay heavy amounts to get them admitted. “There are beds available but the lower hospital administrations are holding them back for VIPs and selling the rest at very high prices. They can ask for a bribe of Rs 1,00,000 per bed”, mentions an ambulance driver (name undisclosed) at a private hospital in Delhi.
According to Indian Express, in UP there was a spike of almost 75,000 new cases in the past seven days, but the state has been able to add just 8,521 additional patients to the hospital. “At a time when every four minutes a person is dying of corona, Lt. Governor of Delhi is still seeking plans from the Delhi government. The government, hospital administration, and the middlemen are to blame. There are beds available (on paper) but in reality, you have to buy them and use influential sources to get admitted.
The government is lacking records and the officials are unable to keep a track of beds. A government hospital told me that there are 51 beds available. I called the admission staff to cross-check and they refused admission. Government has failed, whether in UP, Delhi or the Centre”, said a senior government official asking not to be named.
The Sparrow’s sources at an AIIMS hospital have confirmed that regular beds are being allocated, however, on paper the patients are allotted oxygen beds so as to hide the availability of oxygen beds. “So on websites and on paper, the oxygen beds are getting full and not available for the general public, but actually they are available. These beds are being kept for ministers, bureaucrats, doctors, VIPs, and their relatives. There’s no shortage of oxygen beds but it’s just they are being kept for the powerful section of the society”, say sources.
Furthermore, the black market — run chiefly by middlemen with the help of hospital staff — has done is that it has hoarded up the beds and created a superficial stock. Beds might appear as ‘available on paper or on official sites, in reality, are only available if patients are willing to pay hefty amounts through so-called ‘negotiators’. “(The) government is hiding deaths and active cases. Accept this fact”, said a source from AIIMS.