New Delhi: India recorded over 1.61 lakh new Covid-19 cases and 879 deaths, according to data released by the government Monday, and horrifying stories have emerged about lack of Covid beds, ambulances, remdesivir and oxygen cylinders from almost every state.
At this time, many BJP leaders in states where the party is in power have begun calling out government officials for not providing adequate facilities to patients.
For example, Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Brajesh Pathak has written a letter to the state’s principal secretary (health) about the non-availability of ambulances, Covid beds and testing kits, and called out officials for their laxity.
In Madhya Pradesh too, several BJP MLAs have complained about the non-availability of oxygen and remdesivir in hospitals, while one former minister has accused the additional chief secretary of “fudging figures”.
In Gujarat, state BJP chief C.R. Patil’s move to purchase 5,000 remdesivir injections and distribute them in Surat put him on a collision course with CM Vijay Rupani, but other leaders say the party organisation “has to take a call” if district officials are not paying attention to the scarcity of beds and medicine.
UP law minister’s letter
UP’s law minister Pathak said in his letter to the principal secretary (health) that the state of healthcare was dismal, and even the Chief Minister’s Office was not responding to a minister’s phone calls. Nor, he pointed out, does the state capital Lucknow have proper treatment or testing facilities — Covid test reports are taking 4-7 days, while ambulances take 5-6 hours to reach.
Pathak said despite complaints to the additional chief secretary (medical education), the situation had not improved.
The minister cited the case of Padma Shri awardee writer Yogesh Praveen, who died in Lucknow Monday due to Covid-19, and said it was due to the non-availability of ambulances.
“I personally called the Chief Medical Officer to immediately arrange an ambulance and treatment, but it is highly disappointing that despite his call, an ambulance did not reach in time and (Yogesh Praveen) died in search of an ambulance,” Pathak wrote.
“There is a scarcity of Covid beds; in Lucknow, private labs are not conducting tests and government hospitals are providing test result in many days… There is a shortage of test kits… A senior health official told me there is a daily need of 17,000 kits but only 10,000 kits are available,” the minister added.
“I request you to increase the number of Covid beds, and like earlier, random tests should be started and RT-PCR reports should be made available in 24 hours. Remdesivir injections should be made available,” Pathak concluded, warning that “if we don’t pay attention, Lucknow may have to go under lockdown”.
Lucknow has over 27,000 active cases as of Tuesday, the highest in UP, though Prayagraj and Varanasi are showing higher positivity rates of around 15 per cent.
‘Fudged figures’ in MP
In Madhya Pradesh, the shortage of oxygen has emerged as a stark reality, especially in state capital Bhopal — five people died in Bhopal Monday for this reason, while one hospital released many patients due to the shortage.
The MP government has ordered a seven-day ‘Corona curfew’ in Bhopal, which is being enforced from 12-19 April, and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has instructed officials to ensure oxygen supply to every hospital.
However, fellow BJP MLA and former state health minister Ajay Vishnoi has questioned additional chief secretary Mohammad Suleman for giving “fudged figures” during a review meeting of districts.
Vishnoi, the MLA for Patan near Jabalpur, asked Suleman why he was hiding death figures, as in Jabalpur alone, “daily death figures are adding up to about 15 to 20 but only three or four of them are reported”.
Vishnoi told ThePrint: “I asked him, who will benefit from this (fudging figures)? People are not getting beds in hospitals; not getting oxygen… This is a fact and we should accept it, rather than hiding.”
The former minister eventually stopped his attack when CM Chouhan intervened, but he added: “I have told the CM about mismanagement by health officials. Our priority is to save human lives… Officials have got complacent and they thought Covid is over, but the new wave is severe, and the whole system will have to act swiftly to check spread and provide rapid vaccination.”
‘If officials can’t do it, organisation has to intervene’
In Gujarat, the high court has intervened amid the rising number of cases and deaths — the state registered more than 6,000 cases Monday, and 55 deaths.
The court asked the state government Monday to facilitate the availability of remdesivir and paracetamol. It also questioned the BJP government about a two-kilometre-long queue outside the Zydus Hospital, and asked why a person needed five days to get a Covid test report.
Several hospitals in Ahmedabad have also reported a lack of oxygen supply, and people had to queue up for remdesivir injections in Ahmedabad and Surat. Following this, Gujarat BJP president C.R. Patil purchased 5,000 remdesivir injections to distribute in Surat, which led to an exchange of barbs between him and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
A BJP MP from Gujarat who did not want to be identified told ThePrint: “The situation is alarming as cases are rising rapidly and our health system has started to crumble. State authorities were convinced that now the vaccine has come and cases will go down day by day, but the fresh spike has caught us sleeping.”
The MP defended C.R. Patil’s move to distribute free injections, saying “the organisation (BJP) has to take call if the district collector is not paying attention to the scarcity of medicine and beds”.
“Government officials are not paying attention; they have to be made responsible,” the MP added.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)