26 Jun 2020

While Delhi Government was gearing up to open Lockdown-4 and implement Unlock-1 in the state, Neetu Sharma, a resident of Uttam Nagar in North West Delhi was busy moving her COVID-infected father from one hospital to the other in auto-rickshaws; exposed to ruthlessness of private hospitals and recklessness of government hospitals.

On May 31 last, when her father Nand Kishore's health deteriorated, she took him to the nearest hospital where they were first asked to buy medicines worth Rs. 800. Later, they were prescribed medicines worth Rs. 5000. After keeping him under observation for a day, the doctors recommended for a COVID 19 Test, which turned out to be Positive. The hospital demanded more than Rs. 5 Lakh deposit for treatment without of course, any assurance of recovery. During a telephonic conversation, Neetu complained about the high cost of treatment and said that they had to pay Rs.32,000 just for one  day stay in the hospital, which included three tests including COVID 19. 

Unable to afford the high cost of treatment in private hospital, Neetu decided to take her father to some government hospital. And thus began her roller scoter journey across several hospital in the city. She first took her father to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where they refused to admit him and instead referred him to Safdarjung Hospital. 

At Safdarjung Hospital, the patient was made to wait for two hours. According to Neetu, a bed was vacant at at that time and was told that it was going to take about half-an-hour to sanitize. After a long wait of over two hours; the doctors told her that two COVID patients died during course of their treatment and hence they would not be in a position to admit her father. The patient was then further referred to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital'. 

It was 10 pm at night when Safdarjung Hospital confirmed its refusal to admit the patient. Not a single ambulance in the hospital at that time to transfer him to LNJP Hospital. When repeated pleadings for providing an ambulance did not yield any result; Neetu had to per force take her COVID infected father in an auto-rickshaw accompanied by his brother at midnight.

In the words of Neetu- "We went to three different hospitals between 3 pm of May 31 to 3 am of June 1 with my father who was tested COVID Positive. No consideration was shown nor did he get any attention. For patients for whom no bed is available, there was no ward arrangement”. She further lamented that patients were not provided even with basic facilities like drinking water.

Eventually Neetu's father was admitted that night at LNJP Hospital, but "after he was out of our sight, we kept struggling to find out where he was." 

"We kept asking about the ward number and the floor where he must have been taken for treatment. For next 24 hours, we didn't have an idea about his location," she stressed.

Next day, Nand Kishore called home asking for basics like a blanket and drinking water. 

"He complained about feeling very cold in the hospital and no arrangements were made for him. He did not even have water to drink," Neetu said, adding: "When my brother reached the hospital with a blanket and some clothes, he was not allowed inside. He was told to come between 10 am to 4 pm."

"See the carelessness of the hospital that if a patient is dying of cold inside, then instead of helping him, they are denying the help being provided by the family members. We will be surprised to know that the patient who was worried about cold and water a day before, dies the next day," she whined. 

According to Neetu, on June 3, she received a call from an unknown number, informing the death of her father.

"After which calls were made repeatedly on that number. Once a man took the call saying, 'I don't know. My phone was lying and some doctor came and made the call”; and disconnected immediately'," she said. 

On June 3, Neetu's father's dead body was handed over to them.

Nand Kishore is survived by his two children.

The story of Neetu’s harrowing experience in trying to find treatment for her COVID Positive father; reflects very poorly on Delhi Government’s tall claims in fighting with the challenges of Corona Pandemic. If this can happen in India’s capital city, situation elsewhere in the country is only left to imagination.