'If the government published the actual number, people will start crying on the road.'
COVID-19 case numbers are rising in many Uttar Pradesh cities and towns.
It's no different in Ghaziabad.
This bustling, fast-growing, western UP city of 52.8 lakh population*, established in the 18th century, on the banks of the Hindon river, part of the National Capital Region, is not an exception.
The scenario in Ghaziabad, like it is elsewhere in UP, is the same: No beds. No oxygen. No ventilators. No medical help.
Speaking on condition that his name would not be cited in this interview, one of Ghaziabad's emergency care specialists spoke to Rediff.com about the pain and agony his city is going through. The first of a two-part interview:
How is Ghaziabad faring in this COVID-19 wave? Are cases still growing?
COVID-19 cases are growing very, very, fast. It is not under the control of anyone.
It is multiplication of squares, two into two is four, four into four is 16, 16 into 16 etc, multiplication of a squares you can say (exponentially).
People are in very bad shape here, right now.
Case numbers are difficult to find for Uttar Pradesh. How many cases were there in Ghaziabad say a week ago and how many cases are there today?
Right now, all the hospital beds in Ghaziabad are full.
All the hospitals in Ghaziabad are fully packed. Some hospitals had even opened up their non-COVID-19 beds to the COVID-19 sick, but now still all hospital beds are full.
Since morning I have received more than 25 calls: 'Please arrange one bed for me'.
People are running from here to there in ambulances. They are running around in the ambulances, with the help of oxygen or without the help of oxygen.
The situation is not good.
There doesn't seem to be an exact fix on the death rate. What is the death rate in Ghaziabad?
There's a death rate that is coming in the newspapers, that only 2,000 people have died in the whole of India (on April 20).
The death rate is a very, very, very, very high. I will not quote the number, but you should understand that it's very, very, very high.
Much higher than what people are saying about Ghaziabad?
Much higher. Very, very high.
If the government published the actual number, people will start crying on the road.
Ghaziabad is very close - just 41.6 km -- from New Delhi. This would be an overflow of cases from Delhi? Or is it cases from other places around Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh?
Patients from Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad are all running from here to there. They will take bed wherever they can get it, even if the hospital is 200 km away from Ghaziabad.
The COVID-19 ill are arriving in Ghaziabad from surrounding areas too?
Basically, hospital beds are full everywhere.
People are searching. It maybe that they get the bed in a hospital is 200 km away.
If the patient is not getting a bed in Madhya Pradesh, he wants to be shifted to Varanasi (where he hopes to locate a bed).
They are running around in ambulances. The ambulance people are charging them money and are ready to take them anywhere they want.
Right now, for those sick, if the doctor is giving them a bed on the moon or Mars, they are ready to go there!
In Uttar Pradesh, based on what you are seeing, are cases rising in the cities? Or rising in the countryside? Or both?
First the cases have increased in the city. When the people started moving from city to villages, they spread it there also.
Cases are rising now in both places? Rises in the city caused rises in the villages and now rises in the countryside are being felt in the cities?
First from the city, later on in the villages.
What would you estimate to be the bed capacity of Ghaziabad?
I am not able to say with surety.
There are two types of hospitals -- nursing homes with 10 to 20 beds and then proper big hospitals like corporate hospitals.
If we include all then it is more than a lakh.
About a lakh?
This is not officially. Official beds one would say are 10,000.
How many beds would be ventilated?
There are so many hospitals that have one or two ventilators.
All of these beds are full.
I think Ghaziabad, you could say, has only 500 ventilators.
Ghaziabad is faring better with ventilated beds because it is a much bigger place, because of its proximity to Delhi? It has more facilities than Kanpur or Allahabad?
Allahabad, I would place at number three; Kanpur number two; and Ghaziabad number one in terms of the availability of ventilator beds, and even in terms of the quality of health structures (systems).
Ghaziabad has much better facilities than Kanpur and Allahabad?
You mentioned getting endless calls from people looking for beds. The entire situation in Uttar Pradesh seems particularly bad, as per what one is hearing -- people are not finding beds, they can't find oxygen, they've lost relatives...
The problem is that things are not coordinated.
When you have a pandemic, a responsible person should just declare it a war-zone situation.
They should set up a hotline.
The government should take over all the hospitals including the private hospitals. They should (create a task force of) of high-quality doctors and they should be posted to other places.
There are so many people ill and they are not able to handle the pandemic situation.
There's panic and wastage of resources, wastage of oxygen, wastage of beds.
The situation is very distorted.
*Source: The population of Ghaziabad is 52,82,353 as per Aadhar India Unique Identification information updated on December 31, 2020.
- PART II: COVID-19: 'The young are dying'