Covid: Doctors left to comfort dying coronavirus patients in India as they feel 'helpless'

Inside and outside of hospitals, Covid patients are fighting for breath, ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports

Doctors on the front line of India's second coronavirus wave have said they feel helpless - with one revealing how she can only comfort dying patients at their bedside on most days.

India set another global record with 379,257 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday. The country has now reported more than 18.3 million cases, second only to the United States.

The Health Ministry also reported 3,645 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 204,832. But experts believe the actual figures are much higher.

Despite India's struggling healthcare system in the second Covid wave, amplified by a lack of oxygen and hospital beds, millions of people in West Bengal turned up to polling stations to vote in the state election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have also come under fire over the last few weeks for holding mass election rallies in the state. Other political parties also held rallies.

Doctor U. H. Faisal says on most days, she sits by the bedsides of her dying patients to comfort them

Doctor U. H. Faisal, who works in the city of Kolkata, said on most days, the best she can do for her dying patients is to sit at their bedside.

She said: "It’s already really bad to be dying all alone on a hospital bed away from your family members, so on most days when I cannot do anything else for the patient, I at least try to sit at their bedside making it a little easier for them to pass away with someone next to them.

"I don’t know if it makes sense but I do hope that it provides them comfort in some way.

"I feel really exhausted after each and every shift and it worries me that I cannot go home, back to my parents because I might be taking home the infection to them."

She also said: "I feel helpless at times because of the fact I know that this is not getting over anytime soon. The virus has reached even the small towns and cities of our country. It saddens me to see so many young people dying. "

'I was also crying from inside of my heart,' says Dr Manish Jangra

Dr Manish Jangra described his feeling of helplessness as he watched people die inside and outside his hospital in Delhi.

He said: "Yesterday, I went to the trauma centre in my hospital and there were two people who were crying very badly because they lost their relative and I was also crying from inside of my heart."

He continued: "Even doctors are feeling very helpless. Being a doctor I am feeling helpless seriously. I cannot save our country and I am not able to save our country because our resources are limited.

"In most of the hospitals of Delhi oxygen is very limited. Oxygen is not being supplied, it is the responsibility of the government only, this is not the responsibility of the doctors and people are waiting on the doctors.

"This is very sad scenario. Please help us. We are seriously helpless. We want to save our public. We cannot see our people dying."

Dr Krishan Rajbhar says the Covid situation in India is causing "mental torture"

Dr Parikha Rampal urged the general public to stay positive, although he admitted he felt "honestly hopeless".

And doctor Krishan Rajbhar, from Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi said the Covid situation is "causing a lot of trouble, a lot of mental torture to us" as he begged Indian authorities to help.

More than eight million people are eligible to vote in at least 11,860 polling stations across the state on Thursday. The Election Commission said social distancing measures are in place.

To add to the difficulties, India, one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines, does not have enough doses for its citizens.

Vaccinations are supposed to start on Saturday, but one state, Maharashtra, has already said it will not be able to start then.

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a woman as others wait to test for Covid-19 in Hyderabad, India

Satyender Jain, health minister in the capital, New Delhi, also told the Press Trust of India the city does not have enough doses to vaccinate everyone aged 18 to 44.

On Wednesday, all Indian adults were allowed to register on a government app for vaccinations, but the app crashed, according to social media users. And once it was working again, no appointments were available.

Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only 1.5% have been fully vaccinated with two doses.

The US has pledged to help India by sending more than $100 million worth of items, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and one million rapid diagnostic tests.

France, Germany, Ireland and Australia have also promised help, and Russia sent two aircraft carrying oxygen generating equipment.

'We will not abandon our patients'

Dr Siddarth Tara described the scene around him as “heartbreaking.”

“There is death everywhere, we are trying our best, but it is not enough. Far from enough,” he said.

“When citizens pay taxes and they cast their votes every election they expect their functioning state machinery.

“The patients and the doctors treating them, we both feel the system has abandoned us. We request everybody to stay home, stay put, stay safe.

“Many resident doctors are turning positive at an alarming rate, and I fear that there won’t be enough of us left to replace, to fill in the ranks, two or three months down the line.

“That’s why, even though I am at high risk, many doctors like me, we are volunteering to work, we will not abandon our patients.”

'You are not alone we are here for you and with grit, love and hope, I feel like we can sail through this'

Dr Prakamya Singhal warned India is “at the cusp of the worst crisis that this country has ever faced”.

She said: “Inside our ICUs and wards, these numbers are humans, people with fathers, sons, mothers, anxiously waiting outside our wards, calling us 'how is our son doing?'

“Amidst the crippling shortage of oxygen, beds, medicines and now even health care workers, witnessing a father of two young children succumbing to this illness all by themselves, you struggle to keep your own anxieties and fear at bay, is this how you’d want your loved ones to leave the world struggling and gasping for breath?

“Every day you come back home, asking yourself is any of this even worth it and that’s when you see another set of rising numbers with more and more numbers of people coming together on social media platforms, creating support systems, procuring and making oxygen cylinders, drugs, beds available and accessible for people.

“Reaching out for not just logistics but also for emotional and mental support.

“So, if you’ve been feeling lonely, if you’ve lost a loved one to this illness or if you are struggling with this illness or know of anyone who is struggling with this illness, please know you are not alone we are here for you and with grit, love and hope, I feel like we can sail through this.”

'I'm honestly hopeless'

Dr Parikha Rampal said: “Today, the world around us is filled with grief, news of lack of oxygen, lack of beds, lack of medications, lack of proper place to give a good funeral to our loved ones. It's tragic.

“Trust me as a doctor, I'm appalled by what is going on around me and as a citizen of the country, I'm honestly hopeless.”

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has extended its coronavirus appeal to include India in order to provide aid and medical supplies to the country. Those wishing to donate can do so here.