India's coronavirus crisis is growing worse as system buckles under pressure

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Words by Sanjay Jha, ITV News, Patna, India

With soaring numbers of coronavirus cases, India crossed the grim milestone of 1.2 million Covid-19 cases on the back of a record single day peak of 4,6000 - the situation has become worse in the country’s rural poorer areas which are emerging as new hotspots.

With dysfunctional health infrastructure Bihar, one of the poorest states of India, is struggling to deal with this pandemic.

In the state capital Patna, healthcare systems have already crumbled and hospitals are refusing to admit patients.

People are running from one hospital to another, just to be able to get a test done and get their patients admitted.

Jawed Wahab. Credit: ITV News

Javed Wahab says he has been moving pillar to post with his sick brother in law and couldn’t find any place to treat him for two days.

He is pleading with a lone doctor to get him admitted at the admission counter of Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH).

There appears to be a failure on the part of the local government in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

Locals hospitals are lacking dedicated Intensive Care units, ventilators and oxygen.

On Wednesday, apathy from hospital staff led to the deaths of two patients outside emergency - in front of my eyes.

People allege negligence in the treatment of Covid patients. 

The families of patients are asked to get an admission slip and only then will they be tested for coronavirus.

After waiting for hours, by the time a family received an admission slip, they couldn’t find the doctors and the patient died waiting outside the emergency department.

Chest X-rays are carried out in the hallway, for those lucky enough to get into the dilapidated hospital building.

Rakesh Roy’s two-month-old baby girl has tested positive for coronavirus but he is unable to get her treated.

“The whole health system has collapsed here," Mr Roy told ITV News.

“I am feeling hopeless, I am just a hopeless father, who has a two-month old daughter and nowhere to go.”

One doctor attending patients told ITV News: “The quality of PPE given to us is very inferior and is more like a gunny sack.

"We don't have adequate oxygen cylinder, beds or doctors and no senior doctors. The situation is very bad.

"If we have empty beds than we don’t have oxygen cylinders and when we have oxygen cylinders than no beds are available. There are not enough oxygen cylinders available here”.

Family members of some of the Covid-19 patients admitted to NMCH say they hardly see any doctors or nurses in the isolation ward and the patients are left to treat themselves.

People are dying at the hospital without treatment.

Kanhaiya Kumar Sinha has driven 125 miles to Patna for medical treatment.  Credit: ITV News

“We hardly see any doctors. Only nurses come once in a while. It’s like we are treating ourselves in isolation wards where dogs are roaming around in the night," says Kanhaiya Kumar Sinha who has driven 125 miles to Patna for medical treatment. 

"Families are forced to bring oxygen cylinders."

Though the number of Covid-19 cases rises every day in Bihar, it ranks the lowest among India's 19 states for testing.

Even before the pandemic hit India, Bihar’s health system was in urgent need of repair.

The state’s doctor to patient ratio is the worst in the country: just one government doctor caters to more than 28,000 patients.

The lack of medical staff, combined with a dearth of beds and ventilators in the government hospitals, means Bihar’s population of nearly 100 million faces immense problems when infection spreads.