No room for treatment: Only 46 Covid-19 ICU beds in Delhi

Ganga Ram hospital shows 14 beds available on Delhi government’s Corona dashboard, but when Patriot calls to check – the officials say none are available, and claims 500 people on waiting list

Delhi is facing an acute shortage of Covid-19 ICU beds. While the Delhi government has its website “Corona jantasamvad” where one can check the bed availability, we found it not being updated in real time. The website shows 70 covid-19 ICU beds available as on April 19th (at 3:15 pm) out of a total 4,314 Covid-19 ICU beds.

However, many hospitals like AIIMS trauma, Ganga Ram hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia hospital (RML), Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) which had listed available beds had none remaining when we called to check. From the responses we received – plus those phone numbers out of order or unresponsive, we counted the claim mentioned on the website – the total number of Covid-19 ICU beds came down to 46. 

But in fact, the actual Covid-19 ICU beds available are even fewer, as out of this a major chunk of 24 beds comes under Madhukar Rainbow Children hospital, with the beds available only for paediatric and pregnant Covid-19 patients. So, at the moment Delhi has just 22 ICU beds available for Covid-19 patients.

This is even as numbers in the last 24 hours Delhi witnessed 25,462 positive cases, taking the total active cases in the city to 74,941.

The prominent hospital which shows a misleading number of the Covid-19 availability of beds is Ganga Ram Hospital. It had listed four available in the early morning hours in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital – which was then updated to 2 beds at 11:45 am and in the afternoon was down to 1 – and Ganga Ram City hospital which showed 13 ICU beds availability. When we called the hospital, we were told that no beds were available, and the waiting list had reached 500.

We tried to get in touch with the DANICS officer, Vivek Aggarwal, put in charge as Nodal officer for Ganga Ram hospital. He did not respond to our call or text message. 

We found a total of six hospitals who have mentioned having Covid-19 ICU beds available on the website, with none available in reality. This includes AIIMS trauma centre which had listed four beds being available, updated at 6:15 am, we called inquiring for an Covid ICU bed at 10:35 am by which no beds were available. Others include RML which had one ICU bed available at 6:52 am, by 10:55 am no ICU beds were available. LHMC, which had four beds, had none by noon.

Same with Pushpawati Singhania Hospital, in Saket which had shown an availability of one bed. They said they have 45 patients on the waiting list for ICU, with the person adding “there’s no chance of getting a bed at the moment”.

Hospitals like Indraprastha Apollo which while have noted zero beds on the website told this reporter that 200 beds were available in crown plaza but had no oxygen support.

The non-availability of beds is deeply worrying, with Twitter being witness to people desperately seeking help to secure a life-saving spot in a hospital. While AAP-led Delhi governments people have seen some of these pleas and helped, there have been a few who have succumbed outside hospitals, while waiting for a one.

The need for beds is so grave that on April 18, a day earlier, even though an order by the Delhi government saw an increase of 219 ICU beds with ventilator support in its hospitals, and 696 ICU beds without ventilators, by morning of April 19  GTB hospital which saw a total increase in ICU beds of 150, had none available when we called. The admin staff did add that normal beds for mild covid patients were available, but those beds had no oxygen supply available.

Most of the beds increased were non-ICU beds. In Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, when we called, we were told no ICU beds were available, as mentioned on the website. The staff member added that even normal beds with oxygen support were not available for Covid patients, and that Covid patients were waiting in the ward for admission.

There was however, Deen Dayal Upadhyay hospital, a Delhi-government run hospital which showed availability of three ICU beds. When we called, they confirmed the availability, but added that by the time we get to the hospital, beds may be filled up, and no assurance could be given, he said sympathetically. By afternoon, however, the number of ICU beds available here increased to four.

On April 18, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had cautioned that Delhi was facing an “acute shortage” of oxygen for Covid-19 patients. He also alleged that the quota of the city had been diverted to other states.

Now, on April 19, as the situation turns grave, Delhi government has decided to enforce a lockdown from tonight till next week Monday, that is April 26. Kejriwal while announcing this decision said that the “massive number” of Covid-19 cases “will crumble any functional health system in the world” adding that the Capital city’s health infrastructure “is under tremendous pressure at the moment.” 

(Cover: Ambulance brings Covid patient at LNJP Hospital on April 16, 2021 in New Delhi, India // Credit: Getty Images)

+ posts