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India: Hospitals reject COVID-19 patient due to lack of beds

NEW DELHI (AA): For 58-year-old Akbar Ali’s family, the last 24 hours have been nothing short of a nightmare as the local vendor with a critical heart problem has been rejected by two public hospitals in the Indian capital after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Ali was first admitted to a private hospital, under the “economically weaker section” category, and after testing positive for the virus the hospital referred him to a government-run coronavirus facility.

On Monday, he was refused admission at two government-run pandemic hospitals in Delhi — Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital — due to unavailability of beds. The patient lies in an ambulance outside the second hospital, waiting for treatment.

“We took him to two different hospitals, after Max private hospital released and referred him. My father has a critical heart issue and may die if not attended. We have been waiting outside, almost begging the doctors to take him in,” Shahnawaz Khan, Akbar Ali’s son, told Anadolu Agency.

India’s low investment in the health sector, dedicating only 1.3% of its GDP, is now making it vulnerable to the outbreak. In comparison, China spends 5% of its annual GDP on health, South Korea a whopping 8.1%, and Japan 10.9%.

Earlier on Sunday, the photos and video footage of a hospital in India’s financial hub Mumbai shocked the world. The hospital, due to the unavailability of beds, had kept dead bodies wrapped in plastic, next to patients’ beds who are undergoing treatment.

Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra, with Mumbai as its capital, said they would not tolerate such incidents in hospitals.

“We have seen some incidents at hospitals. Such incidents will not be tolerated. Do not force us to take action,” Thackeray said in an address to the people on Friday.

A day later, some videos, showing a crowded ward packed with patients and medical staff but also with patients’ relatives, were posted on social media. Two patients were seen sharing a bed.

Nitesh N. Rane, a ruling party legislator in the state, posted a video purportedly showing COVID-19 patients sleeping among the dead in a Mumbai hospital. The vision provoked public outrage and echoed fears expressed by many Indians that some states might be overwhelmed if there is a rise in cases.

Trains resume

While India’s health system struggles in the midst of the lockdown, the country’s railway authorities is resuming its passenger trains starting from Tuesday.

The Indian Railways, under the lockdown, has already been operating its freight services to transport essential goods across the country. Some “Special Shramik” trains to ferry stranded migrant workers to their home states, had also run in the last few weeks.

In the first phase, the railways will operate 15 pairs of trains (30 train trips) starting from May 12. These trains will be run as special trains from New Delhi station to connect to South, East, and West India.

India reported the highest single-day spike on Sunday with over 4,000 fresh cases. The South Asian nation of around 1.3 billion population now has 67,259 confirmed cases, including 2,212 deaths.

After originating in China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 187 countries and regions. Europe and the US are currently the worst-hit regions.

The pandemic has killed nearly 283,000 worldwide, with total infections exceeding 4.11 million, while recoveries surpassed 1.41 million, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

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