Covid-19: Hospitals, crematoriums choking in Gujarat

With rising Covid-19 cases, hospitals, crematoriums in Gujarat under pressure

Over 476 deaths and over 60,000 fresh cases were logged in Gujarat in the last two weeks

On Wednesday, the state reported a record 73 deaths and 7,410 cases in 24 hours. Credit: AFP Photo

A crematorium in Surat, which till two weeks ago used to cremate 10 to 15 dead bodies on an average in 24 hours, is cremating 100 to 110 dead bodies. The trustee of this crematorium says that due to all-day use, the cremation furnaces have melted. Similarly in Ahmedabad's Vadaj area, the chimney of an electric furnace collapsed due to overheating caused by excessive use. A 24-year-old had to wait for seven hours to get his father cremated on Tuesday night.

With over 476 deaths due to coronavirus infection and over 60,000 fresh cases in the last two weeks (from March 31 to April 14), Gujarat's hospitals and crematoriums are witnessing an unprecedented burden. The images of people lining outside the hospitals to get admitted and dead bodies piling up in front of crematoriums are the most common sites in the state. The situation is expected to get worse in the coming days.

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On Wednesday, the state reported a record 73 deaths and 7,410 cases in 24 hours, taking the death toll to 4,995 while the number of active cases stood at 39,250.

"Last year, when the infection started, we increased three more gas cremation furnaces to meet the demand. Today, we have six furnaces and eight wooden pyres but they don't seem enough as we are cremating between 100 and 110 dead bodies every day," said Kamlesh Sailor, main trustee of Kurukshetra Crematorium in Surat.   

Although the number of deaths due to Covid-19 in Surat was only 24 on Wednesday in government records, the rest of the deaths are those cases that don't get counted as caused by the infection. "Patients with comorbidity or those who have a prior illness but are infected are not counted in the government record as Covid-19 deaths. That's the reason that despite a lesser number of deaths (in government record), crematoriums are packed," said a doctor, part of the state government's Covid-19 team, on condition of anonymity. However, the cremation of the comorbid patients is done as per the Covid-19 protocol. 

According to officials, all Covid-19 designated hospitals are packed with patients. "The relatives are making frantic calls for securing beds. Same is the case with oxygen supply and medicines like Remdesivir. Even as an IPS officer, I can't assure my relatives. The situation is that bad," said an officer requesting anonymity.  

The number of active cases in the state stood at over 39,000l The government claimed before Gujarat High Court on Monday that it had 71,000 beds, it didn't reveal how many of them were for critical cases, ICU and isolation.

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Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has signed an MoU with 152 private hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients, which have a total of 5,903 beds, out of which only 1,326 were for critical cases. By Wednesday evening, barely two per cent of the critical beds were vacant. Despite repeated attempts, Health Minister Nitin Patel didn't respond to calls.

The grim situation forced Ahmedabad Medical Association to write a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani over the "shortage of oxygen supply in Covid hospitals".

The letter states, "Sir, the condition is going from Bad to Worst. Severe shortage of oxygen supply all Covid Hospitals. Hence, doctors are unable to treat patients who need oxygen. Every admission in Covid situation is only done when oxygen saturation of patient goes down and he/she requires oxygen supplementation from outside. If such conditions persist, the Death toll will rise..."