On Tuesday, a 30-year-old woman travelled from Hazaribagh to Sadar Hospital in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi for medical help for her coronavirus-infected father. She said she had to wait at the hospital’s parking lot for about half-an-hour before any help reached her father.
He was declared dead when doctors checked upon him.
Around that time, state Health Minister Banna Gupta was on a visit to the hospital’s Covid-19 ward.
On her way out of the hospital with her father’s body, the woman saw the minister and confronted him. “Mantri-ji, doctor-doctor chillate reh gaye, koi doctor nahi aaya aadhe ghanta tak; khali vote lene ke liye aate hain (Mr Minister, we cried for half-an-hour looking for a doctor, but no one came; you come only seeking votes)…” the wailing woman was heard telling the minister in a video that has surfaced on social media.
This incident, in a nutshell, tells the state of affairs in a state that has seen a rapid surge in cases reported over the last three weeks – one of a crumbling health infrastructure, with more than 90 per cent ICU beds occupied in both public and private hospitals.
In the last 20 days, more than 115 people in Jharkhand have died of Covid-19. From less than 1,000 active cases, the state, as on Monday, had 13, 933 active cases.
Health Minister Gupta later on Tuesday asked the Civil Surgeon to do an inquiry into the woman’s complaint at Sadar Hospital. “A woman started crying after her father died. I am shaken by the incident. I have ordered an inquiry,” he said.
In Ranchi’s private and government-run hospitals, out of 943 beds available with oxygen support, 879 are occupied as of today. In non-invasive and invasive ventilator supported beds, 234 out of 335 remain occupied. The remaining 73 are empty at Sadar Hospital due to lack of technicians.
State Health Secretary Kamal Kishore Soan said the government has increased capacity at the city’s premier Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences hospital and added 240 oxygen beds at Sadar Hospital. Soan said he has written to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Drugs Controller Of India, and the Union Additional Secretary (Health), detailing the state’s immediate requirements in view of the surge in cases.
In his letter to Additional Health Secretary, dated April 12, Soan wrote that the state is undergoing a “huge” surge in coronavirus cases, which is likely to increase three-fold by April-end.
He wrote: “As on date we have 13,933 active cases, and we have approximately tripled in the last 7 days. As per current growth rate, Jharkhand estimates 33,000 to 35,000 active cases by last week of April, leading to high requirement of ventilators. As such, it is requested to provide 1,500 ventilators so that the state may cater to the rise in number of Covid patients and provide them required treatment.”
In his letter, dated April 10, to Drugs Controller of India V G Somani, Soan asked for Remdesivir, citing acute shortage of the drug in the state.
Soan told The Indian Express that Jharkhand had grown from zero RT-PCR labs to setting up seven such labs, which conduct around 12, 000 tests each day. But in order to increase the testing capacity, Soan said he had written to the Centre and sought two additional ‘RT-PCR machines, and two COBAS Machines.
The state has requested the ICMR for a genome sequencing machine. In his letter to ICMR, dated April 11, Soan wrote: “…There is no facility to check Covid strains in the state and the samples are sent to Bhubaneshwar for Genome Sequencing, which consumes time. Under current circumstances, it is essential to evaluate the strains within the state and for this it is requested to provide at least one Genome Sequencing machine to the state…”
He wrote, “As per understanding, funds available under the Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Programme may be used for the above equipment. The State shall be ever grateful to the ICMR for their support under such difficult times.”