Shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and ventilators led to the death of many during the second COVID-19 wave in Delhi – these lives could've been saved had there been more hospitals.
In May 2020, The Quint published a story revealing that between April 2015 and March 2019, Arvind Kejriwal's government did not commission a single new hospital in Delhi. Makeshift arrangements were made by adding beds at existing hospitals, but that wasn't good enough, because the number of doctors and nurses did not go up.
But has the situation improved? Has the Delhi government moved forward on several pending hospital projects? The Quint visited six hospital land sites that had been handed over by the Delhi Health Department to the Public Works Department (PWD), Government of Delhi back in February 2011, for hospital construction.
Our ground report reveals that of the six hospital sites, at four sites, no construction work has started, only boundary walls exist and at two sites, construction work has started only in early 2021.
Bamnoli Hospital - Just a Gate!
Our first stop was Bamnoli village in South-West Delhi. Here, 14,543 square metres or 17 bighas of land had been allotted by the Delhi Health Department for the construction of a hospital in January 2010. In January 2011, the Health Department assigned the project to the PWD - to start with building boundary walls at the site, and then to begin construction.
When The Quint reached the spot, all we found was a board saying, "Site for 200 bedded government hospital Bamnoli, New Delhi". There was no construction going on at the site.
Since the location of the proposed hospital is not available on the Delhi Government's website, I had to first visit the Bamnoli Panchayat office to get the exact location.
I saw a few panchayat members sitting and chatting. When I asked them about the hospital, they said, "Hospital kahan hai, bas zameen hai aur gate par tala laga hai. Pata nahi sarkar hospital kab banayegi". (Where's the hospital? There is just some land with a locked gate. We don't know when the government will build the hospital).
One of the panchayat members, Rohtash, assisted us and took us to the location. 58-year-old Rohtash was born in Bamnoli. He said that the closest government hospital is Deen Dayal Upadhyay hospital, 17 kilometres away.
During the second wave of COVID, our small dispensary was flooded with patients. Patients from nearby villages came to our dispensary. This hospital would've served at least 7-8 villages in the area. And each village has minimum 3500 voters. So you can imagine the population that this hospital would have catered to.Rotash, resident of Bamnoli village in Delhi
When asked whether any complaint or request was made by the villagers to the government for the construction of the hospital, he said, "Who would listen to us? If the government really wanted a hospital here, they could have built it by now. No one came here after laying the foundation stone 10 years ago."
Jhatikara - Wall, Gate, Board. No Hospital!
From Bamnoli, I traveled to Jhatikara village, site for another hospital in South-West Delhi. Again, as no address or location for the hospital site is available on the government website, I reached the place only with some local help.
As per information available on the Delhi Health Department website, on 30 September 2009, 6736 square metres or 8 bighas of land was allotted for the construction of a hospital here.
When I reached the hospital site, once again, all I found was a boundary wall, a gate and a broken board.
A Delhi government document dated 15 February 2011 says - "The project has been approved for construction of Health Centre cum Maternity Hospital at Jhatikara, with bed strength of 100 beds. This needs to be revised because apparently maternity hospital with 100 beds may not seem to be an appropriate proposal."
Well, instead of revising the number of beds at the hospital, the Delhi government seems to have brushed the proposal under the carpet. For over 10 years!
Pavan Tyagi, a resident of Jhatikara said, "After constructing a boundary wall here, no government official has visited the site."
Jhatikara village is heavily populated because it is located at the Delhi-Gurugram border.
We desperately need a hospital here. The nearest hospital is around 18 kilometres away. This road connects to Gurugram, so accidents often take place here. Many times patients die on the way to the hospital. During the COVID-19 second wave several people died from our village because they could not get oxygen beds in a hospital.Pavan Tyagi, resident of Jhatikara village
The villagers had written to the local MLA and to the Delhi government to complete the construction of the hospital, but nothing happened, Tyagi told The Quint.
Baprola - 15 Years, No Hospital, Just a Garbage Dump
My next stop was Baprola village in West Delhi. Here I met ex-army man Narendra Singh Fauji. After his retirement, he dedicates most of his time to social work. He had filed multiple RTIs on various social issues including one on the non-existent Baprola hospital.
Singh took us to the site where the Delhi government was supposed to build a hospital. As per Delhi Health Department documents publicly available, the government planned a 50 bed hospital in Baprola on a 2,654 square metre or 3 bigha plot of land.
The government document dated 15 February 2021, says, "Initially the project was envisaged to be constructed for 100 bed hospital. However due to constraints of the plot area actually under possession, which is 3 bighas, the project was revised to a 50 bed Mother & Child Hospital project. The land is in possession of Directorate of Health Services and PWD."
When we reached Baprola hospital site, yet again, we found only a boundary wall and a gate. Singh told us that there was a hospital board as well, but had either been removed or stolen by someone.
Singh shared a photograph of the hospital board which he had clicked earlier.
Singh said that in 2006 this plot of land was allotted by the Delhi government for the construction of a hospital but 15 years later there is just a boundary wall, a gate and garbage collecting within.
The hospital land has now become a dump yard for the locals. It was full of filth. Interestingly, many residents staying in the vicinity didn't even know that the land has been allocated for a hospital.
The nearest government hospital is in Zafarpur which is 11 kilometres from Baprola.
I have filed multiple Right to Information applications with the government on the Baprola hospital, but the response so far has not been satisfactory. They says this much of land has been allotted for the construction, but they do not tell us when the construction will start.Narendra Singh Fauji, resident Baprola village
He also told us that during the COVID-19 second wave people of his village had no option but travel to the government hospital over 11 kilometres away. Tyagi says he also went to the Zafarpur hospital for his COVID-19 vaccine as it was not available in his local dispensary. The government has neglected our village says Tyagi. An understatement, surely.
Chhatarpur - Hospital Site is Hub for Drug Addicts
Locating Chhattarpur hospital in South Delhi, was the most difficult. As mentioned earlier, no information is available on government websites about the location or address of these sites. When I was on the verge of giving up, I met Budhan Pandit who works in a school in Chhatarpur.
He took us to the 4000 square metre hospital site. The plot is now full of bushes and trash. It is now a hub for drug addicts.
Budhan Pandit advised us against entering the place as it could be risky. He told us that the hospital site had been inaugurated twice by the former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The government had planned a 200 bed hospital here. But after constructing the boundary walls, nothing.
Madipur and Vikaspuri - Hope Floats!
But not everything is bleak. At Vikaspuri and Madipur I saw two hospital sites where construction work was on, started in 2021 by the Delhi government.
Residents at Madipur told The Quint that construction work started in January 2021. The government proposes to build a 600 bed hospital in Madipur. Rs 320 crore was allocated by the Delhi government in November 2019, although the land itself was handed over to PWD for construction way back in 2010.
The Delhi government plans to complete the construction work of the Madipur hospital by November 2022.
At Vikaspuri too, construction work started only in early 2021. The Delhi government allocated Rs 319.51 crore for the construction of a 700 bed hospital here, in November 2019.
With hospital work having started in Vikaspuri, the Arvind Kejriwal government has been mindful enough to tom-tom the 'achievement'. Posters about the hospital were visible all over the locality, with an eye on the upcoming Delhi Municipal Corporation elections in 2022.
Paras Tyagi, co-founder of Centre for Youth Culture Law & Environment, and a resident of Vikaspuri, claims to have worked extensively on social issues affecting rural Delhi, including lack of hospitals.
The population of Vikaspuri and nearby villages has been waiting for a hospital for decades. I wrote several complaints to the government about hospital construction. Kejriwal government and the previous government don't deserve credit for the hospital being constructed now. All credit goes to those people who pursued this matter and to the COVID-19 pandemic, that compelled the government to build a hospital here.Paras Tyagi, co-founder of Centre for Youth Culture Law & Environment
Paras added that some of the land was given by the Gram Panchayat to the government in the hope that it would build a hospital for the villagers. They had to wait several years just for construction to start. We can only hope the projects are completed as planned, and on time.
The plan to build government hospitals in across various parts of rural Delhi was made to decrease the pressure on bigger government hospitals, and also to save the residents of rural Delhi the trouble of travelling for several kilometres for basic healthcare. As The Quint has shown, for the most part, this plan remains a pipe dream.
The Quint has written to the Delhi government, the Delhi Health Department and also to the Public Works Department (Delhi) for their response. We will update the article as and when we get a response.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)