There are only 60 ambulances dedicated to ferrying Covid-19 patients and the bodies of those who died of the disease. In a city the size of Mumbai, this shortage is starting to tell

Shruti.Ganapatye

With only 60 ambulances dedicated to transporting Covid-19 patients and bodies of patients across the city, the shortage is starting to have a real impact. On Friday night, a 55-year-old man from Kamathipura suspected of having Covid-19 died after no ambulance turned up to take him to a hospital for five hours. In nearby Nagpada, a Covid-19 patient who needed dialysis urgently had to wait more than 12 hours for an ambulance on Saturday.

The 55-year-old man was diabetic and had been admitted to a private hospital with high sugar. His neighbour told Mirror, “He was released from the hospital but was still not feeling well. Doctors told him to get tested for Covid-19, which he did on Saturday morning.

However, by afternoon he was feeling uneasy and had difficulty breathing.”

The neighbour said he called for an ambulance around 6 pm but couldn’t reach any of the help lines. “We called a local politician for help. He also tried to arrange for an ambulance but [the man] died at 11 pm. When he was dying, he understood that no ambulance was going to come,” he added.

In the Nagpada case, a 41-yearold man who had already missed three dialysis tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. That night, he managed to get an ambulance and was taken to a municipal hospital at Grant Road. However, the hospital refused to admit him and sent him back home.

With his family in quarantine and no one to help him except for a lone relative, he resumed his search for an ambulance at 5 am on Saturday. By then he was feeling unwell and his legs were swollen. His relative said, “We waited for an ambulance from 5 am and finally one arrived at 5.30 pm. But it was only after a local politician intervened that his wait ended. He has been admitted to SevenHills hospital.”

A BMC official, who did not wish to be named, admitted there had been delays in sending ambulances to patients. He said they are now trying to get BEST buses converted into makeshift ambulances. “We have 60 ambulances across Mumbai dedicated to corona patients.

But when we realised this would not be enough, we asked BEST for help. We are getting 30 small buses converted into ambulances.”

The official added, “Sometimes there are delays because shifting patients to hospitals or quarantine centres takes time. We have assigned ambulances ward-wise and are trying to resolve the problem.”

Congress MLA Amin Patel said the shortage of ambulances was so severe that he recently had to send four Covid-19 patients to hospital in a single ambulance. He added, “I felt sorry for the man from Kamathipura who died waiting for an ambulance. I am ready to donate 10 ambulances to the BMC and have raised funds for this. But there are no ambulances available on the market. The BMC should take possession of private ambulances in this crisis.”

Sanket Surve of Ekvira Mauli Ambulance Services said the owners of private ambulances are refusing to transport Covid-19 patients as they do not have the required personal protective equipment (PPE) or the money to buy it. He added, “Also, there is a protocol involved [in transporting Covid-19 patients], which includes immediately disinfecting the ambulance. For this we need the support of hospitals. Hence we are refusing to transport Covid-19 patients.”

Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Sheikh said that each ward has only one or two ambulances. “I have been noticing the difficultes Covid-19 patients are facing just to get admitted. Ambulances do not come on time and the Nagpada case is a shocking example of this,” he said.

Courtesy -Mumbai Mirror

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