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India COVID: Patients dying without oxygen amid Delhi surge

April 25, 2021 6:39 pm

For a fourth day in a row, India has set an unwelcome world record for the number of new coronavirus infections: a further 349,691 cases in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, with another 2,767 lives lost.

The capital, Delhi, is one of the worst-hit areas. The BBC’s Vikas Pandey reports from a city whose hospitals are overwhelmed and whose citizens are in desperation.

When Ashwin Mittal’s grandmother’s oxygen saturation level dropped a week ago, he started frantically looking for a hospital bed in Delhi. He called everybody he could, but every hospital refused.

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Her condition deteriorated further on Thursday and he took her to the emergency rooms of several hospitals, but every place was full. They accepted the fate that she was going to die without getting any treatment. But she was gasping for every breath and Ashwin just couldn’t bear it after a while.

He took her in his car and went from one hospital to another for several hours until one in north Delhi agreed to take her in the emergency for “a few hours”. He was to continue looking for a bed.

Ashwin, who has also tested positive for coronavirus, continued his search while battling a high fever and severe body aches. But he couldn’t find a bed, and the hospital continued to keep his grandmother in the emergency ward on compassionate grounds.

Doctors there said she needed an ICU and had a good chance of survival. A family friend told me that the hospital was planning to discharge her on Sunday as it was running out of oxygen.

“The family is back to where they started and has accepted the fate. They know that if she survives, it will be because of a miracle, not because of any treatment,” the friend said.

Miracles are what many families in Delhi are left to rely on. Most hospitals are full and many of them are refusing new admissions owing to the uncertainty over oxygen supply.

Oxygen-equipped ambulances are in short supply and it’s becoming difficult for families to transport patients to hospitals even if they find a bed.

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