Oxygen shortage, crowded crematoriums: UP's health infrastructure crumbles as COVID wrecks havoc

According to officials, there has been an increase in the number of bodies brought to the crematoriums as compared to the pre-COVID times.

Published: 23rd April 2021 10:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd April 2021 10:39 AM   |  A+A-

A COVID-19 patient receives primary treatment outside LLR Hospital, amid a shortage in beds and medical oxygen due to surge in coronavirus cases in Kanpur. (Photo | PTI)


LUCKNOW: A record single-day spike of 34,379 COVID-19 cases and 195 fatalities pushed Uttar Pradesh's infection tally to 9,76,765 and the death toll due to the disease to 10,541, the state government said on Thursday.

As many as 16,514 patients recovered from the disease in the state in a span of 24 hours, taking the total count of recoveries to 7,06,414, Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Amit Mohan Prasad said here.

On Wednesday, the state registered 33,214 COVID-19 cases and 187 deaths.

Uttar Pradesh now has 2,59,810 active cases, of which over two lakh are in home isolation, Prasad said.

Among the fresh cases, Lucknow reported the maximum 5,239 cases, followed by 2,013 in Allahabad, 1,813 in Varanasi, 1,684 in Meerut, 1,516 in Kanpur, 530 in Gautam Buddh Nagar besides others, a health bulletin issued here said.

The state capital reported the maximum 19 deaths followed by Allahabad and Kanpur -18 each, Varanasi- 10, Gautam Buddh Nagar 11 among others, it added.

In Lucknow the number of those discharged rose to 6,207, it said At a review meeting here, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials to make oxygen concentrators available to districts where there is a high demand while seeking support from the Centre for its availability, an official statement said.

The chief minister said the death of any person in the state is unfortunate, and directed officials to give due honour to the aggrieved families and ensure cremations following COVID-19 protocols.

Adityanath said the availability of essential medicines and oxygen was satisfactory, and asked officials to keep an eye on the situation.

"There is no shortage of tankers/cylinders but keeping in mind the changing situation, additional tankers and cylinders should be arranged, and it should be ensured that there is no black-marketing of oxygen and other medicines," he added.

The process of setting up oxygen plants in private medical colleges should be done fast, the chief minister said.

He directed officials to ensure transparency in allotment of beds in hospitals, and asked them to arrange transport facilities for migrant labourers and also to see that they are kept in quarantine centres for at least seven days.

Meanwhile, long, serpentine queues of people awaiting the cremation of their dear ones has become a common sight at various crematoriums in the city amid the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

According to officials, there has been an increase in the number of bodies brought to the crematoriums as compared to the pre-COVID times.

Family members of coronavirus victims claimed that they have to wait for three to four hours to complete the last rites of their deceased relatives as around 80 to 100 bodies are brought to the crematoriums everyday as against 10 to 20 bodies before the pandemic outbreak.

Chief Medical Officer, Agra, R C Pandey, however, said the rising deaths may also be due to non-COVID reasons like heart failure, chest infections, among others.

The management committees of the crematoriums in the city have started issuing coupons and tokens to people to avoid inconvenience to them.

Tajganj cremation centre near Taj Mahal is one of the main crematoriums of Agra where electric and non-electric centres function.

Shri Chhetra Bajaja committee manages and takes care of the premises.

Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, in-charge, Shri Chhetra Bajaja committee said, "The situation is worsening these days. Around 35-40 bodies are brought to the electric crematorium at Tajganj everyday these days. Over 50 bodies reach the main crematorium daily."

"In normal days (pre-COVID times), 10-15 bodies used to be cremated at the electric centres, and 10-20 bodies at non-electric centres. The numbers (of bodies) have gone up since the outbreak of coronavirus," he said.

Gupta said the crematoriums are now issuing tokens to people waiting for conducting the last rites of their relatives.

"To avoid inconvenience to family members, we are issuing tokens to them for conducting the last rites. Due to the heavy load, we have to ask the people to wait for two to four hours as there are only four electric furnaces at the electric crematorium at Tajganj," he said.

A caretaker at a crematorium said it was the first time in his life that he had seen such a rush at the cremation centres.

"I have been working here for about 40 years. This is the first time I have seen such a large number of bodies being brought to the cremation centres," he said.

He also said that all available empty spaces at the cremation centres, be it galleries, big grounds or other areas, are being used for cremating bodies.

Meanwhile, Agra Municipal Commissioner Nikhil Teekaram Funde assured the people of appropriate arrangements at the cremation centres in the city.

Two private hospitals in Uttar Pradesh's Gautam Buddh Nagar with around 600 COVID-19 patients on Thursday said they were facing a shortage of oxygen supply and they did not have enough to last them till the next day.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued late in the night, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Deepak Ohri said admissions to such private hospitals where the number of beds has been increased but suppliers have not been able to provide oxygen as per contract have been "put on hold" for the time being.

"In such hospitals, no new admissions are being taken. They will resume once oxygen supply is normalised," Ohri said, adding in all other government and private hospitals, the normal admission process as per bed availability and medical requirement shall continue.

Officials of Kailash Hospital in Sector 27 said their resources are already "overstretched" and the staff was working beyond duty hours to tackle the influx of patients due to the pandemic.

Patients at Prakash Hospital in Sector 31 were also left in the lurch due to oxygen shortage.

Kailash Group Medical director Dr Ritu Vohra said they have around 450 patients across their four facilities in the district.

Prakash Hospital, which has two facilities, said in a statement that it has around 150 patients under treatment who need medical oxygen.

"We have oxygen for seven-eight hours. Since morning, all our group hospitals need oxygen replenishment. We have stopped new admissions due to oxygen shortage.

In this hospital (Sector 27), we have oxygen that would last only four-five hours," Vohra said around noon.

"We are ready to pay extra for oxygen or do whatever it takes because saving the lives of our patients is the top priority for us," she added.

Vohra appealed to people from civil society to help the hospital with oxygen replenishment if possible.

She said the hospital has informed the district administration and all concerned officials regarding the situation and has repeatedly been assured that "replenishment would be done soon" but to no avail.

At Prakash Hospital, attendants of several patients were seen running from pillar to post to find help while hospital officials said they were facing difficulty in procuring oxygen from their supplier in Haryana.

"We have been told that the hospital has oxygen supply that will last only two to three hours and that patients should be taken to some other hospital," a patient's attendant standing outside the hospital told reporters.

Another attendant said, "My daughter is in the hospital for the past few days and now they are saying take her somewhere else. Where do we take her? They should tell me where I should take her, I would do that. It's such a failure."

Gautam Buddh Nagar Chief Development Officer Anil Singh, who visited Prakash Hospital, said he has been told about the difficulty in the procurement of medical oxygen from Haryana and the district administration is trying to resolve the issue.

On patients being asked to move to other facilities, Singh told reporters, "If such a situation arises, then we will make all arrangements for it."

CMO Ohri said all efforts are being made to tackle challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There were some rumours doing rounds on social media that admissions to hospitals have been stopped in the district. It is clarified that no such instructions have been given," he said.

"All efforts are being made to normalise oxygen availability in the district in consultation with the state government," he added.

Besides Kailash and Prakash hospitals, attendants at some other hospitals in Noida and Greater Noida also claimed difficulty in finding oxygen for patients battling COVID-19.

Gautam Buddh Nagar is one of the worst-hit districts in Uttar Pradesh.

According to official data, the district has 4,088 active COVID-19 cases and a death toll of 129.

The state on Thursday revised its order enabling admission of COVID-19 patients in private hospitals with referral of the Integrated COVID Command Center (ICCC) after facing criticism from several quarters.

According to the rules, only the patients referred by ICCC are admitted in private hospitals, leading to huge rush at the centre for referral letters, drawing criticism on social media and by opposition Congress.

In a directive sent to all divisional commissioners, district magistrates and all chief medical officers, Additional Chief Secretary (Medical and Health) Amit Mohan Prasad said now COVID patients can be admitted in private hospitals on the basis of their test reports.

After admission by private hospitals, they will have to report about the cases immediately on the portal of the state government, the order said, adding that these hospitals will have to reserve only 10 per cent beds on which patients referred by ICCC will be admitted.

According to the arrangement so far, cases of infection are received in the ICCC from where doctors interact with the patients and it is decided which patients need to be admitted to the COVID hospitals and who are to be sent on home isolation.

"Due to the high cases of infection, this system is not being implemented in a very effective way, due to which it has been decided to change the system. However, the process of admission of COVID-19 infected patients in government hospitals, state medical colleges and private medical colleges will be done through the command center itself," the order said.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had in a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanded the abolition of the need for referral letters for infected patients from ICCC located in the Chief Medical Officer's Office.

According to the new system, no referral letter will be needed for patients who are eligible for hospitalisation, if they wish to be admitted to a private COVID hospital.

Several people had on social media criticised the government over the practice of referral letters of admission.

As many as nine COVID-19 patients were shifted to the BHU Trauma Centre in Varanasi on Thursday due to the lack of liquid medical oxygen at a private hospital here.

"The doctors at Trimurti Hospital had informed us about the lack of oxygen. So some patients had to shift to BHU," said an official.

"There are nine patients that are being shifted as the hospital is left with just an hour of oxygen supply," he said.

"The hospital informed us about the shortage of oxygen at the hospital just two hours before and ask us to shift the patient," kin of a COVID infected patient told ANI.

(With AANI Inputs)


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