Indian hospital struggles to cope as up to 200 Covid patients show up daily

By Moncho Torres

New Delhi, May 11 (EFE).- The Indian health system has collapsed and the hospitals are unable to deal with the “tsunami” of new coronavirus patients seeking admission, as is the case with the Spanish Vicente Ferrer Foundation (FVF) hospital that can only accept a few of the 200 infected people that arrive daily.

The FVF hospital at Bathalapalli, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, was one of the centers chosen by the regional government to treat Covid-19 patients in a country that has become the global epicenter of the pandemic in recent weeks, with around 400,000 infections and 4,000 deaths per day.

The voice of Spanish doctor Gerardo Alvarez-Uria, head of the hospital’s infectious diseases department, has changed. It is now weary and exhausted compared to the first phase of the pandemic last year.

His interview with EFE kept getting delayed due to the workload at the hospital that, like others in the rest of the country, has been overwhelmed.

QUESTION: What is the pressure like in the hospital right now?

ANSWER: For comparison, it took about three months for the hospital to get fully occupied during the first wave and we were never without beds with oxygen. However, this time, it looks like another disease altogether. The hospital has been filled in three weeks with much more severe patients, with a huge oxygen requirement and the ICU being full. And above all we see many young patients.

Q: From three months to three weeks in filling up the hospital…

A: And we have increased the number of beds with oxygen. We’ve put many more oxygen units on the walls. In fact, we have opened a new chamber for patients needing oxygen. We are even using the corridors.

The number of patients seeking admission is enormous. Everyday nearly 200 patients diagnosed with coronavirus come to get admitted and we can only accept a small number of them. (…) Increasingly more patients arrive in the emergency room, and in very serious condition.

Q: How many patients are currently admitted?

A: Right now we have about 240 patients admitted with the coronavirus.

Q: Did you ever reach a point, like several other hospitals, where you ran out of medical oxygen?

A: No, we have not reached there, but what we are facing what I think is happening across the country. We have a 180-bed hospital, 200 beds in general, of which 30 percent had oxygen. We have now had to upgrade the beds to 240 and almost all with oxygen.

The oxygen tank, which used to take three weeks to refill, is now spent in one day. Everyday the oxygen company has to come and fill it up, otherwise we run out of oxygen. Any day it can happen that the truck is delayed by a few hours. The company distributes oxygen to 900 hospitals. It has such a high demand that one day it may not arrive, or arrive late. We are looking for funds to buy an oxygen generator, which would help us a lot.

(Only last night, 11 patients died after an oxygen tanker got delayed in reaching another hospital in Andhra Pradesh.)

Q: In the face of this pressure, there have been cases of desperate families who even end up beating doctors, who are not to blame. Have you experienced similar moments of tension in the hospital?

A: Yes, they are happening. It is a disease that leaves no one happy. There is a lot of tension among the doctors, yesterday there was a doctor crying in the hospital, the morale is very low because of the number of patients we see and because the patients are very young. Very hard.

Q: As you said, it “looks like another disease.” What’s this all about? Any theories? The so-called Indian variant?

A: So far I have not seen any scientific evidence that the variant is more contagious or virulent. But from clinical impression it is more aggressive. In young people we see that in five days of symptoms they already have developed respiratory failure. I don’t remember that in the first wave.

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