Death and Election: Different Worlds In and Outside WB Hospitals

If the numbers look horrifying now, they are going to be even worse in the next few weeks.

My Report
2 min read
A doctor at a COVID ward in one of Kolkata’s well-known hospitals notes the different worlds in and outside it.

There's shortage of beds, manpower, resources, facilities and even basic necessities. This wasn't unexpected. When you spend barely 1.2 percent of your GDP on healthcare for decades, this is what happens. India was never really prepared for a pandemic.

I am a doctor at a COVID ward in one of Kolkata’s well-known hospitals. The seventh phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections began on Monday, 26 April, amid a high surge of coronavirus cases in the state and the country all over. It's like two entirely different worlds are running inside and outside the hospital premises. Inside, people are dying regardless of whether they are 18 or 80. Outside, there are rallies, crowded buses with passengers refusing to wear masks.

Official estimates suggest that we are still a while away for the second wave to peak. Oxygen shortage and collapse of the healthcare system is catching the eye of leaders worldwide.


The question is if India is listening. Infrastructure can't be built overnight. I'll give an example. Our hospital got brand new ventilators from the government last year in the middle of the pandemic, but the oxygen supply lines in this hospital weren't built to support the air pressure at which those ventilators work, thereby rendering them useless. You can’t turn general wards to ICU and HDU set-ups overnight. Architecture isn’t magic. People are running around for oxygen. Some are desaturating even while on maximum oxygen support.

We were trained to save lives. We weren’t trained to stand helplessly watching a septuagenarian mother take out her oxygen support and hand it to her daughter lying in the adjacent bed.

It's been over a year and people still haven't learnt how to properly wear a mask. It's even more incredible how some people still think COVID-19 is a hoax, or that it's a disease of the affluent. The election and its gatherings have only made it worse. If the numbers look horrifying now, they are going to be even worse in the next few weeks. And with NEET and other medical exams cancelled, we will be missing out on a large chunk of doctors who would have otherwise been in training by next June or July.

The lack of manpower is being met by increasing duties of the existing manpower. It all seems fine till working overtime leads to physical and mental exhaustion, thereby increasing the risk of clouding clinical judgement and decision-making. It's ridiculous how there's no accountability for this.

There was a false sense of security early in 2021, which paved way for a disaster of epic proportions. Thousands of lives have been lost, and barely any lessons taken from the year that passed us.

(The author is a doctor based in West Bengal and wishes to stay anonymous. All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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