Like unending peels of an onion, misery upon misery is unfolding for the unfortunate victims of covid-19 who are gasping for critical care. Distressing reports of umpteen life-saving ventilators lying unpacked and unused in hospitals across the country aggravate the traumatic experience that covid patients and their kin are going through.
Right from Jammu and Kashmir to Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, the story is the same. Ventilators are lying unused at some government hospitals for lack of infrastructure and technical manpower, even as patients are rapidly succumbing to the infection that has assumed a fiercely virulent form in the ongoing second wave.
The medical supplies crucial for tertiary care gathering dust exposes the abject apathy, appalling negligence and callousness of the healthcare system. Crores of rupees were spent on the procurement of medical equipment last year, 2020 in the wake of the first wave of the pandemic. Ventilator manufacturers had risen to the occasion and ramped up production capacities.
By June, the government had pumped in Rs 2,000 crore for supplying 50,000 ventilators to government-run covid-19 hospitals across the country. However, the devices are lying idle with the makers, as there are very few takers in view of the inadequate strength of technicians.
DEARTH OF VENTILATORS AND GROSS MISMANAGEMENT
There have been examples in the country where government hospitals have passed on the ventilators to private hospitals that can make optimal use of them, but it also raises some questions. Pertinently, considering the prohibitively high cost of private hospital ICU beds, what proportion, if any, of the respiratory apparatus given to the private hospitals is reserved for poor patients?
Several questions are also asked with respect to the critical care. Why are public hospitals, especially in smaller towns, so understaffed, lacking in trained hands? How does the equipment land up in places that are not equipped to handle it? Has anyone been held accountable for such wastage of meagre medical resources? All these remain unanswered.
(Dr Naresh Purohit is a Medical Expert and Advisor National Communicable Disease Control Programme. He is also Advisor to six other National Health Programmes and visiting Professor in five Medical Universities of Southern India including Thrissur based Kerala University of Health Sciences. (The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author)