Gujarat COVID Spike: Crematoriums Face Crisis, Patients Await Beds

The Quint
·6-min read

Amid the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, crematoriums in Gujarat’s Surat are facing a crisis. The long waits at the crematoriums have forced the families of the deceased to perform the last rites on open grounds. Overuse of crematoriums has also led to melting of gas furnaces.

Meanwhile, reports and visuals have emerged of COVID-19 patients waiting in ambulances for hours on end, due to an acute paucity of beds at Ahmedabad’s biggest COVID-19 facility.

Melting of Gas Furnaces at Crematoriums

The three crematoriums in Surat – Ramnath Ghela Crematorium in Umra, Ashwini Kumar Smashan in Dharam Nagar and Kurukshetra Smashan Bhumi in Jahangirpura – are working without a break. This has led to the melting of gas furnaces.

According to a report by The Times of India, before the pandemic, Ramnath Ghela Crematorium and Kurukshetra Crematorium used to received 20 bodies daily on average.

However the situation has drastically changed over the past two weeks. Now, these crematoriums receive around 80 bodies. Ashwini Kumar Crematorium, Surat’s biggest cremation facility, used to attend to more than 30 bodies. But now, it is cremating nearly 110 bodies daily.

COVID-Victims Cremated on Open Grounds

With more than 100 bodies being cremated daily in Surat currently, there seems to be a 10-hour wait at crematoriums. Long waiting hours have forced the families of those who succumbed to COVID to perform the last rites on open grounds.

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Govt Not Hiding Any COVID Fatalities: CM Vijay Rupani

Data released by the state government bulletin showed that only 14 people succumbed to COVID-19 in Surat on Saturday, 10 April. This raised several speculations on whether the Gujarat government was hiding the number of COVID fatalities in the state.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Saturday, however, rubbished such speculations. “If a comorbid patient dies, a committee of experts decides the primary and the secondary causes of such deaths. If that committee identifies the cause of the death as heart attack then, even though the patient was infected, such death is not counted as a COVID death. The same system is followed throughout the country,” he said in Ahmedabad.

Discrepancy in Data

In Rajkot, at least 89 people died while undergoing treatment for COVID between from 6 April and 8 April. However, as per the district collector’s office, only 14 succumbed to the infection.

In Ahmedabad, the data from crematorium reveals that 25 bodies of COVID-deceased were cremated at Vadaj, Dudheshwar and Thaltej crematoriums on Saturday. But the data from the collector’s office showed that only 16 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the district.

A report by Times of India said that the state government’s health bulletin on Friday stated that there were six deaths in Vadodara, but the bulletin issued by Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) mentioned only two.

State officials have defended the discrepancy stating that the bulletins showed the numbers of persons who died primarily due to COVID-19.

Ambulances With COVID Patients Wait Outside Hospital: Reports

As per media reports, the sharp spike in cases in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad has led to a severe scarcity of hospital beds.

On Tuesday afternoon, a journalist tweeted purported visuals of 108 ambulances with COVID patients waiting for four to six hours outside the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.

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This comes even as the superintendent of the facility on Tuesday told ANI that 2,008 COVID-19 patients were admitted to the Medicity campus of the hospital on Monday night.

The superintendent said this in response to media reports of patients waiting in ambulances outside the hospital for hours on end, as the facility had run out of beds.

"“2,008 COVID-19 patients admitted in Medicity campus right now with a capacity of 2,120 beds. We took 45 ambulances in last night within an hour. (Sic)”" - JV Modi, Superintendent, Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.

A long queue of ambulances was seen outside the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital on Monday, reported India Today.

As per the India Today report, paramedics were, thereby, compelled to administer patients with oxygen inside the ambulances itself.

The Ahmedabad Civil Hospital is reported to be the city’s biggest COVID-19 facility.

People Wait for Days: Guj HC on COVID

Meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court on Monday asked why the common man was having to stand in queues while the government was claiming ample availability of beds and oxygen facilities. Representing the government, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi said that everything was under control.

“Everything is under control. The government is doing its job. Now, the people have to be more cautious,” Trivedi told the court, adding that imposing a lockdown was not a solution as it will affect wages of people and that people must impose a “self-lockdown”.

In an oral order, Chief Justice Vikram Nath of the Gujarat High Court had, on Monday, said that "news channels are flooded with the harrowing tales, unfortunate and unimaginable difficulties and unmanageable conditions of the infrastructure."

The Chief Justice had also reportedly noted that there exists a deficit of not only testing, beds and ICUs, but also of supply of oxygen and basic medicines like Remdesivir.

He had further noted that the reports indicate that the state is moving towards “a health emergency of sorts.”

Chhattisgarh to Set Up 6 New Electric Crematoriums

The situation is no better in Chhattisgarh. Bodies of COVID patients are piling up at various hospitals in Raipur, including at BR Ambedkar Hospital.

In a bid to tackle the situation, the state government has decided to set up six new electric crematoriums to speed up the cremation process, reported The Times of India.

A new video has surfaced online where bodies are lying on the floor and stretchers as the deceased’s kin waited in queues to perform the last rites. Workers in the video say that the sudden surge in deaths has worsened the situation.

(With inputs from The Times of India and India Today.)

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