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India's Catholic leaders seek ways to ease Covid-19 crisis

Archbishop Machado wants Catholic schools and institutions to become care centers for non-critical patients

India's Catholic leaders seek ways to ease Covid-19 crisis

People stand near bodies of Covid-19 victims lined up before cremation in New Delhi on April 28. (Photo: AFP)

As India continues to add more than 300,000 Covid-19 patients daily, Catholic leaders have suggested ways to meet the needs of the thousands approaching their health facilities.

“Our hospitals are full and there is no scope for fresh admissions unless the patients in the hospitals are discharged,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore told UCA News on April 28.

“It is not a solution to tell critically ill patients that we have no space for them. They need immediate medical care, especially those in need of a life support system.”

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The archbishop has instructed Catholic hospitals in his archdiocese, based in Karnataka state’s capital, to convert Catholic schools and institutions close to each hospital as Covid-19 care centers to take care of non-critical patients.

“This way we can spare more beds in hospitals for critical patients. Those who have crossed the critical stage can continue to get their care in the temporary centers,” he said.

He said the city has 12 Christian hospitals including St. John’s Medical College, which is managed by the national bishops’ conference.

The need now is to save lives

“But all our hospitals are full and we are helpless to admit new patients. St. John’s has admitted close to 500 Covid-19 patients and every day we get distressed calls for fresh admissions. We can do nothing,” Archbishop Machado said.

He said government permission is needed to convert a non-hospital facility into a Covid-19 care center.

“I have also made this offer to the state government” but the government has not yet responded, he said. 

The Church is also ready to offer its institutions near government hospitals to be used as temporary Covid-19 care centers. “The need now is to save lives,” he said.

The prelate has also offered the help of volunteers to supplement hospital staff.

Since mid-April, India has been reporting more than 300,000 new Covid-19 cases and 2,000 deaths daily, with the tally increasing each day.

On April 28, the country reported a record 360,960 new cases and 3,293 deaths as hospitals in major cities and towns faced a lack of beds and oxygen. Patients could be seen sharing beds and lying on the floor in many hospitals.

A hospital official on condition of anonymity said many doctors, nurses and paramedical staff are exasperated by working continuously. “Some have even left the job,” he said.

Church leaders have appealed to people to follow Covid-19 protocols and remain at home as the only remedy to protect them from the pandemic as medical treatment even in critical cases has become nearly impossible.

Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore wrote to Catholics in his diocese in central India expressing his inability to help them find hospital beds.

“I could not arrange for a bed in our hospital for your dear ones. It was because there were no beds available. All hospitals are full,” Bishop Thottumarickal said in an open letter on April 27.

“Times are hard for everyone. Every day we hear about the death of someone dear. If not death, a friend is in a ventilator or ICU. Those who get a bed in the hospital are lucky,” he said.

The severity of the second wave is 100 times more dangerous than the previous one

People are frantically searching for oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir injections. “In the meantime, some predict that worse things are yet to come,” Bishop Thottumarickal wrote.

Catholic hospitals in the worst-hit cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi are also full and patients had to be turned away.

“We had to turn away Covid-19 patients as we have no beds available,” said Sister Sneha Joseph, administrator of Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai’s Andheri area.

“We feel sorry when critical patients are not admitted. The severity of the second wave is 100 times more dangerous than the previous one.”

VIDEO: India's Covid woes worsen amid oxygen shortage

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