Health workers alarmed as India runs out of hospital beds

Bishops, priests and nuns among Covid-19 patients as India reports more than 217,000 new cases on April 15

Saji Thomas

Updated: April 16, 2021 03:39 PM GMT

An Indian health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a passenger for Covid-19 screening on a railway platform in Mumbai on April 16. (Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP)

India's Covid-19 care hospitals in many major cities, both government and private, have run out of space after a sudden spike in positive cases in the second wave of the pandemic, Catholic health workers say.

Our hospitals do not have space for fresh admissions, said Bishop Jose Chittooparambil of Rajkot in Gujarat state in western India, one of the worst-affected regions.

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India has been reporting more than 150,000 new cases daily since the start of April, with an average of 800 deaths each day amid reports of a lack of hospital facilities including oxygen supplies.

New cases passed 200,000 for the second consecutive day on April 15.

Bishop Chittooparambil said that although he was infected, he did not get admitted to a hospital as his condition was comparatively stable. Someone needy can be admitted in that space, he said.

Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar in Gujarat's state capital was admitted to church-run Christ Hospital in Rajkot, 230 kilometers away, as his city had no hospital beds available.

Many of our priests and nuns are under treatment

The situation is very bad here. Our hospital beds reserved for Covid patients are full and we are trying to add more beds to accommodate critical patients, Bishop Chittooparambil said.

Retired Bishop Gregory Karotemprel of Rajkot is also undergoing treatment for Covid-19.

Many of our priests and nuns are under treatment, Bishop Chittooparambil told UCA News on April 16.

The situation is no better in other areas as infections and deaths continue to spiral. On April 15, the federal government said 217,353 new cases were reported and 1,185 people had died in the previous 24 hours.

Now the situation in many parts of the country is such that hospitals are full and ordinary people have no one to look for other than God, said a health worker in a Catholic hospital in Madhya Pradesh, requesting not to be named.

Many have died without getting treatment, some literality on the road, he said.

In major Indian cities Catholic hospitals with Covid-19 wards are full and we have practically no space for fresh admissions, said Father George Kannanthanam, national secretary of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI).

CHAI is an umbrella body that coordinates the activities of 3,537 institutions including 300 hospitals, five medical colleges, small clinics and other dispensaries

These facilities, mostly in small towns and villages, have more than 50,000 beds at any given time. CHAI offered its facilities to the government in the first outbreak of the virus.

The situation seems to be more critical than the earlier outbreak and we can defeat it only with strong willpower

Many Catholic hospitals across India have been converted to Covid-19 hospitals as the governments wanted, Father Kannathanam told UCA News on April 16.

What we find now is that people have lost their confidence, unlike in the previous spell, and what we need to do is to motivate them to fight back again, the priest added.

The situation seems to be more critical than the earlier outbreak and we can defeat it only with strong willpower.

The central state of Madhya Pradesh is among many states that have reintroduced lockdowns in major cities and nighttime curfews among other measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore has urged Catholics to pray for the speedy recovery of critically ill Bishop Basil Bhuriya of Jhabua in the state.

The bishop was admitted to a church-run hospital with Covid-19 on April 5 but is not responding to treatment, a church official said.

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