Agra grapples with shortage of oxygen, hospital beds as COVID patients wait in ambulances for hours

·3-min read

Agra (UP), Apr 20 (PTI) For over one hour, Richa Singh has been waiting outside the emergency ward of a government hospital here to get her mother-in-law, suffering breathing difficulties and lying inside an ambulance, admitted to the facility. After being turned away by many hospitals, she is clueless about where to go now.

People here are having a tough time to get their ailing family members admitted to hospitals. Lack of availability of beds for patients at COVID or non-COVID hospitals, shortage of medical oxygen, inadequate number of RT-PCR testings (considered the gold standard for COVID-19 detection) at centres -- the pandemic has hit health services hard in Agra.

Singh, who originally hails from Agra rural, was waiting outside the emergency ward of the Sarojini Naidu Medical College (SNMC) and Hospital. She was perplexed about what to do next as her mother-in-law anxiously waited inside the ambulance, struggling to breathe.

'I have been waiting to get her admitted to the hospital. She is having breathing difficulties. I am alone and not getting a clear answer as to what to do or where to go because no one has responded,' Singh said.

She lamented that she tried to get her ailing mother-in-law admitted to other facilities as well, but to no avail.

The wait is not just outside the hospitals.

Family members of COVID-19 patients were seen jostling to get remdesivir injections, an antiviral drug, and other medicines prescribed by doctors. A long queue of people waiting to give their samples for RT-PCR tests and those at vaccination centres is also a common sight nowadays in the city of the wondrous Taj Mahal.

Private ambulance operators as the shortage of medical oxygen continues, they are left with no option but to deny patients. Some argue that patients' wait inside ambulances before being admitted to hospitals is taking a toll on medical oxygen availability.

Ravi Sisodia, state president of the All UP Ambulance Operators Welfare Association, said there are about 400 private ambulances in Agra district, but most of them are lying unused because of the unavailability of oxygen for ambulances.

'There is a huge demand for ambulances to drop patients to hospitals in Agra or outside the city, but due to acute shortage of oxygen, we are forced to turn them away, ' Sisodia said.

'The other reason for more consumption of oxygen cylinders is that patients have to wait for long hours in ambulances outside hospitals. Sometimes hospitals refuse to admit patients due to unavailability of beds. In that case, we take the patient to other hospitals until he/she is admitted to a facility,' Sisodia said.

Agra Chief Medical Officer (CMO) RC Pandey said, 'There are 19 hospitals including private and government ones which are being used for COVID-19 patients. We are also trying our best to provide as much as help as we can to the needy.' Asked why the patients are made to wait inside ambulances outside SNMC emergency ward, the CMO said it might be due to some other reason and claimed the ward has 50 per cent vacant beds.

Shortage of remdesivir injection and other medicines for COVID-19 treatment has posed a major challenge to the residents.

One such resident, Prajal Bhardwaj, said, 'I have an urgent need for remdesivir injection for my friend's father, but it is not available anywhere. I have called the helpline number of the health center as well, but did not get any positive response.' When contacted, Drug Inspector Raj Kumar Sharma confirmed the shortage of remdesivir.

According to official data, Agra reported 493 fresh COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, pushing the district's infection count to 14,490, while three related deaths took place in the last 24 hours. The district has 2,994 active cases of the novel coronavirus. PTI COR CK CK