New Delhi, India – Unlike millions of Indians struggling to get money to treat the deadly coronavirus, Savita Oberoi was neither poor nor powerless.
However, her upper-middle class family could not save her. They were unable to find a hospital bed or oxygen in time, and the 61-year-old lost her life to COVID-19 on 12 April.
“We knocked on the doors of at least 15 hospitals, took advantage of all our networks and contacts to arrange treatment for my mother,” says Oberoi’s daughter Vandana Paliwal, 38, a teacher in West Delhi. “We finally got a bed for the mummy after days of trying it, too, through a contact who knew the hospital management.”
But it was too little, too late. Within hours, Oberoi died. The hospital called the family at midnight to tell them he had died.
“All I can say is that Indians don’t die because of COVID-19; they die for not receiving treatment in time. There is a big difference. I have already lost my father; and now losing my mother has also been a double whammy for me, ”says Paliwal.
Despite the family’s comfortable financial situation, Paliwal explains how they had to struggle in every step to treat their mother. “Imagine the situation of the poor,” he adds.
“There are long queues everywhere: in clinics, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies … For two days, we couldn’t even get any laboratory technician to come and test my mother. Even if you have money for COVID-19 treatment, there is no guarantee that you will get treatment and live. Simply because there is very little you can do about this bureaucracy and bottlenecks.
“Is that how a civilized country works?” she asks.
When Oberoi was finally tested to detect COVID-19, the result was delayed. He arrived three days later, after many blows and pushes from Paliwal, who had to follow up on the lab. Meanwhile, the state of Oberoi deteriorated further.
“We were told that the laboratory was having difficulty dealing with the testing requests of thousands of patients. My mother was already suffering from diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Systemic delays killed her. ”
Until the family received confirmation that Oberoi was indeed COVID positive, she was unable to initiate appropriate treatment. “The wait at all levels was frustrating and irritating. My husband and I were torn between caring for my sick mother and working phones to contact hospitals and doctors. We didn’t know what to do; it was crazy, “says Paliwal.” Everyone seemed to be collapsing around us. “
Once the family got to the hospital bed, they sighed in relief. But Oberoi was reluctant to be admitted. She remembered her daughter continuing to say she had no good feelings about it.
“I think my mother had the premonition that she might not leave the hospital alive. But we told him there was no other option. He had several comorbidities that had already compromised his immunity; therefore, he needed specialized care. Her sixth sense turned out to be correct: she was shot as a living person and came out as a “body”. “
The professor believes the country’s medical system has completely collapsed “like a house of cards” under the second wave of coronavirus. Unconscious black markets have multiplied overnight with treatment drugs and oxygen cylinders sold to desperate families for at least ten times their normal price. At the same time, Paliwal says, VIP politicians and celebrities receive “red carpet treatment and the best doctors available to them, even when normal people suffer through no fault of their own.”
Meanwhile, deaths continue to rise.
“I saw six to seven bodies cremated simultaneously and in a hurry when we were in the cremation ground of my mother’s last rites. There is not even dignity in death. All citizens have been abandoned in their greatest hour of need by those who hold the highest positions, in charge of serving and protecting them. This has been the bitter aftermath of this pandemic for millions of Indians. “