And it’s not just ordinary people who face this problem; it’s a challenge even for VVIPs including ministers, bureaucrats, celebrities and healthcare professionals themselves. Many corporate hospitals and almost all private hospitals with oxygenated beds have displayed notices announcing, ‘no beds, limited oxygen’.
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The chief minister’s office and offices of the health minister and other senior ministers are bombarded with SOS messages and calls every day from VVIPs, pleading for oxygenated beds. They all end up disappointed, sources say.
Recently, former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, who contracted the infection, tried — unsuccessfully at that — for a bed in Manipal hospital and eventually managed to secure one in Apollo hospital.
A senior minister in Yediyurappa’s cabinet reportedly had a difficult time getting a bed with oxygen facility for one of his close relatives, who had difficulty in breathing. “I had to buy an oxygen cylinder and get him treated at home as no private hospital was ready to admit him due to uncertainty of oxygen supply. Eventually we shifted him to a hospital in Mysuru,” the minister said.
Shortage of specialists too
Many celebrities have taken to social media to narrate their plight and express concern over accessing treatment in private hospitals after they lost some of their members.
“It’s not just about beds and oxygen, it’s also about a severe shortage of specialist doctors,” Anirudh Vishnuvardhan, Sandalwood actor, told a TV channel.
Another senior bureaucrat, who works closely with the CM, had to face an even more harrowing ordeal to find a bed for his mother-in-law. After her health deteriorated on Tuesday evening, she was shifted to a leading hospital near their residence in Indiranagar. Despite pleas, they were advised to take her home. “There is no bed vacant, and she will be better managed at home,” they were told.
As the night progressed, her condition worsened. Her oxygen levels dipped dangerously, leaving her gasping for every breath. After hundreds of frantic phone calls to friends and contacts, the family finally found her a bed in a small private hospital. She is still battling for life.
Thriving black market
A celebrity from the Kannada industry said he had to cough up Rs 50,000 for a Remdesivir injection. “The doctor treating my aunt asked for it and I was left with no choice but to pay,” the star said while refusing to be identified. “Remdesivir has become like recreational drugs. It is officially unavailable, but black marketeers are willing to provide even home delivery. What I am saying is not hearsay. I myself paid for it and I am thankful that the black market at least makes it available,” he said.
However, some health department officials blame VVIPs for the current mess alleging that they or their relatives occupied beds in major hospitals despite having no serious symptoms of the coronavirus infection. Politicians, bureaucrats, and Sandlwood stars have hogged beds in major private hospitals for longer than necessary, they say.
Health minister K Sudhakar last week said the government will impose a rule to ensure only people whose oxygen saturation levels is 90% or less will be admitted in hospitals. The move is aimed to prevent the influential from blocking beds, but the rule is still in the works.
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