A Long 6-9 Hour Wait for a Bed at Chennai’s Biggest Govt Hospital
As of 13 May 2021, there are zero oxygen beds in Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital.
Cameraperson: Smitha TK & Praveen Annamalai
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Sriramulu’s 70-year-old wife had tested positive for COVID-19 that morning and by noon, her oxygen levels had dropped to an alarming 80 points. He rushed her to the hospital and since 3.30 pm he has been waiting in the long line of ambulances, hoping to get an ICU bed soon.
“If support is given, her condition is stable, else it is critical. I am scared because she is old and has BP issues and diabetes. We are hoping God will save us,” said the daughter of a 75-year-old COVID patient, who waited for eight hours to get an ICU bed.
It is a long six-nine hour wait for an oxygen-bed or an ICU at Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital in Chennai, the largest hospital in the city.
As of 13 May 2021, there are zero oxygen beds in the hospital and they are creating space by using oxygen concentrators with regular beds.
While medical staff are working round the clock, the surge in cases is not at par with the vacancies at the hospital.
Reports of Deaths in Ambulances While Waiting Outside the Hospital
Dr Therani Rajan, Dean, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital told The Quint, “In the first COVID wave, we had 817 beds and now we have 1,618 beds earmarked for COVID patients. In the first wave, only 30% of the patients required hospitalisation and the rest 70% were asymptomatic. But this time, all age groups are affected and they have a number of respiratory illnesses.”
In each of the ambulances there are at least two attenders from the 108 emergency team who assist the patient and caretaker. There is continuous oxygen supply and a doctor comes in to check the first 10-odd ambulances every few hours and prioritises the patients, based on emergency.
“When we told the doctors inside that her condition was critical, they told everyone in this queue is in a similar health condition.”Sriramulu
The Quint spoke to an attender at the hospital who said, “In the last one week, I would have ferried 30 patients to the hospital here and three of them passed away while waiting because they didn’t get an ICU bed in time.”
“We have seen oxygen levels depleting and we've even seen a few people die in the ambulance because they couldn't get admitted in time. We are also seeing a lot of deaths and bodies being brought out. We've seen women who've lost their husbands to COVID who sit here and do the rituals before the funeral, like removing flowers,” said N Paul Sunder Singh, Founder and Secretary of Karunalaya NGO that has been distributing water and food for the patient’s relatives at the hospital.
Tamil Nadu, known for its excellent healthcare system, especially government hospitals, is facing a crisis like never before. Dr Theran explained the reasons for the massive delay due to private hospitals sending patients to the government hospital after their condition becomes very critical, and when patients who don’t require urgent care come to the hospital in an ambulance, they delay the chance of getting a bed for someone else who is in dire need.
Every day at least 250-300 patients are admitted and 150 people are discharged from the hospital. What is worrying is that this queue could soon turn into a COVID hotspot.
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