Breathless with depleting oxygen levels, a 52-yearold Dongri man died after allegedly being tossed around from one south Mumbai hospital to another. Calls to 1916, the BMC helpline, yielded no concrete response. Khalid Ali Shaikh passed away early on Saturday, merely four hours after he managed to find a bed at the state-run St George Hospital.

Shaikh had dedicated the last five years of his life to giving a dignified burial to the many who died in the city but whose mortal remains could not be taken to their home in Kerala. He headed a committee formed for the purpose. “It is unfortunate that my father couldn’t get a chance to fight for his life,” said his son, Shahbaz, adding that they spent two-andhalf hours going from hospital to hospital in a taxi on Friday.

They went to five hospitals, of which two tested his father’s oxygen levels. No one was willing to admit him despite his depleting oxygen levels.

The deceased was a diabetic and was suffering from fever and weakness for the past four days, which worsened around 8 pm on Friday.

Shahbaz said they hailed a taxi and headed to Prince Aly Khan Hospital in Mazgaon, where his father’s pulse and oxygen saturation levels were checked. “They said his symptoms looked like that of Covid-19 and referred us to H N Reliance Hospital,” he said. H N Reliance offered an ambulance to take him to a dedicated Covid hospital in Marol.

Dongri man’s Covid report awaited

They then headed to HN Reliance Hospital in Charni Road, where once again Shaikh’s oxygen levels and pulse rate were measured. Since the hospital is not a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, it offered to arrange for an ambulance and send Shaikh to SevenHills in Marol, which is a dedicated Covid hospital.

A hospital spokesperson said that the son, who was counselled by the doctors and explained everything, was unwilling to take his father all the way to Marol. “He was breathless already and looked fragile. I didn’t want to make him travel all the way,” the son said.

With an elevated pulse rate of 137 against a normal of 90 to 100 and oxygen saturation level of 89% against a normal of 90% to 100%, they headed to Saifee Hospital in Charni Road. By now, 40 minutes had passed.

A person manning the BMC helpline told them he would get back in 45 minutes with the status of beds in hospitals.

The family claimed that at Saifee they were not even allowed inside. “My father became unconscious inside the cab. I was allowed to speak with the doctor-on-duty over the phone. She told me that all their ventilators were engaged. She said as his respiratory ratio was dropping, he would need life-support immediately and suggested that we try for a bed in Bombay Hospital,” said the son.

He then decided to go to Masina Hospital, where he said they were not allowed to go past the security cabin. “We finally went to Bombay Hospital, where the guard at the emergency department came out and told us that there were no doctors,” the son said.

A spokesperson from the hospital said that they should have gone to the 24-hour casualty. “Bombay Hospital is running a Covid ward. How can there be no doctors?” the spokesperson said. A Saifee Hospital spokesperson said they would look into the records and get back.

The patient was finally taken to St George Hospital, where a bed was made available. “My father was immediately given oxygen support but a staffer told us they could be running out of oxygen,” said Shahbaz.

His father was declared dead around 2.30 am, just when the family sat down to their meal. “We still haven’t received his Covid-19 report. We don’t know if he was infected but we have home quarantined ourselves,” he said.