I Can’t Breathe!

I Can’t Breathe!

We haven’t kept down our phones since the past two days. The COVID support group initiated by the Jan Sampark Samuh Bhopal is flooded with calls from panic stricken relatives and patients. We have little help to offer besides listening to them, consoling them, and providing support in locating beds, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, medicines and caretakers. Entire families are in the grip of COVID infections and are grappling for breath. One doesn’t know whether to feel desperate or relieved by the number of deaths. Relieved since one death means an empty bed! A critical patient gasping for breath can now get an oxygen bed…

 That’s the fluctuation in human thinking and response that we are witnessing. There is no time to think about the dignity of the dead. We are focusing on the living.

Most hospitals have kept their phone off the hook. We have  been asking patients to reach the hospital emergency section and talk/argue their way in. Hospitals are more like war grounds now. Already strained health workers are struggling to deal with the influx and lack of essential COVID management drugs. A critically ill patient spent the night in a wheel chair, and next to an oxygen supply point. She got a bed next morning when another patient passed away.

Numerous whattsapp forwards are floating around, creating more confusion and waste of precious time for critical patients. CIPLA, HETEROCARE and other such pharma companies have grandly announced a toll free number along with staff numbers. The Indian Medical Association too has sent out a neatly worked out document of doctors on phone call. Shamefully, none of them work!

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Meanwhile, Remdesivir the key COVID drug for critical patients is at the centre of a massive black-marketing nexus. The drug is currently off open markets. Today Hamidia hospital reported theft of Remdesivir drug. And friends from old city have reported that prices have shot up from 4000/- to one lakh and above! So, death is a good business especially in times of a pandemic.

District Collector has set a procedure where COVID hospitals will send them a requirement of the drug. They will supply directly to the hospital. Patients will have no direct access to the medicine. Most hospitals are receiving less supply of the drug. Patients are being asked to get the drug by doctors! The district administration sounds clueless as we make endless calls demanding supply to hospitals with high number of patients.

Yasir, an active volunteer and a Medical Representative has been running around to support COVID affected families. Right from procuring oxygen cylinders from dealers on rent to assisting families to reach hospitals, Yasir feels extremely frustrated by the apathy of the government and pharma companies, distributors and doctors. Yet, he continues to attend to cases. And yes, its Ramzan as well. Volunteers in old city continue their good work despite day long fasting.

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Pooja’s entire family is COVID positive. Her sister has severe Pneumonia, Saturation is below 50% and she is currently waiting outside AIIMS emergency hoping to fight her way in. Mishraji entire family is COVID affected and in three different cities. His son called from Guna, weeping profusely asking for Remdesivir for his father who is alone in Anantshree hospital. Anantshree has its phone off the hook. Anshu spent a day running pillar to post trying to get the drug for her 60 year old diabetic aunt admitted in AIIMS. AIIMS had asked them to get the drug from outside! Five cases from day before yesterday are dead today…

Meanwhile political parties and Civil Society organizations are collectivizing around a demand for ending the blackmarketing of essential COVID drugs.

As always, it’s the civil society that has come in aid of each other. The district administration is busy grappling with the influx and the state continues to fudge data. Cremation and burial grounds tell the gory tale of the administration’s inability to handle. As our elected leaders keep themselves busy with election rallies, we the people are left to fend for ourselves.

Seema, Eka