Medical workers wearing personal protective equipment take care of a patient at Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. —Photo by Reuters

How one man struggled for eight hours to find a Covid bed in Delhi hospitals

As the number of cases in the Indian capital rises, patients struggle to be treated.
Published 08 Jun, 2020 12:04pm

It took 59-year-old Somnath Kumar around eight hours to find a bed in a hospital bed in New Delhi on the night of June 5.

Somnath Kumar is employed at the New Delhi Municipal Council and lives in Central Delhi’s Lodhi Colony. Since he had been feeling unwell for a few days and showed symptoms of Covid-19, his family took him to Safdarjung Hospital on the night of June 1, said his son Vipin Kumar, who works as a musician.

But the authorities at Safdarjung Hospital did not get him tested for Covid. They treated him with oxygen and sent him back home on the morning of June 2, said Vipin Kumar.

"They just asked him if he was feeling well and he [my father] said yes and they told him to go home," Vipin Kumar said.

An arduous hunt

On the night of June 3, his father started to feel breathless again. The family took him to Primus Super Specialty Hospital in Chanakyapuri where he was asked to come back the next morning, said Kumar, who returned to Delhi that night from Mumbai, where he lives.

On June 4, doctors at the hospital tested Somnath Kumar for Covid-19 and admitted him to an isolation ward. On June 5, Vipin Kumar found out that his father had tested positive for the virus. In the evening, Vipin Kumar went to the hospital along with his friend Pradeep Kumar where the hospital authorities claimed that they did not have the facilities to treat Covid-19 and told them to take the patient to another hospital.

But the hunt for a hospital bed would be a long and arduous one.

As cases in Delhi soar, several patients developing symptoms or testing positive for the virus have found themselves struggling to find beds in the city’s hospitals. Relatives of some patients said that officials in both public and private hospitals told them that all their beds were occupied. Many of them claimed that the Delhi government helpline to inform patients about vacant beds was unresponsive, while the bed availability status on the government’s Delhi Corona app did not tally with what hospital authorities told them.

As of June 6, Delhi has recorded 1,320 fresh cases. The total number of cases was 27,654, with 761 deaths.

On June 6, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that some private hospitals were involved in black-marketing of beds and said that suspected coronavirus patients could not be turned away. In a statement issued on June 5, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said that there was no shortage of beds. He claimed that 5,000 beds were vacant.

But for patients like Somnath Kumar, the experience of finding a bed in the city for Covid treatment was a nightmare.

Pradeep Kumar sent an image of the ambulance in which Vipin Kumar's father travelled.
Pradeep Kumar sent an image of the ambulance in which Vipin Kumar's father travelled.

'Did not find anything safe there'

Vipin Kumar said that on the evening of June 5, he contacted authorities at privately-run Max Saket, Moolchand Medcity, Venkateshwar Hospital and government-run Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. But all four hospitals told him that they did not have beds.

"They said that if we came there then we would have to turn back," Vipin Kumar said.

He checked the Delhi Corona app, the mobile application the Delhi government launched on June 2 to show the availability of beds and ventilators in public and private hospitals. "It was showing that beds were available but when we called Max Saket and Moolchand they told us they were full," he said.

He also dialed on the 1031 helpline repeatedly but no one picked up, he said.

Vipin Kumar said he then contacted a person who worked in the Delhi government. This official, whom he did not want identify, told him that Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital had a bed available.

The hospital authorities at Primus Super Specialty Hospital charged Kumar INR10,000 for an ambulance to take his father 11 km away to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital at Delhi Gate at around 2.30 am on June 6.

Doing the paperwork

When they reached the hospital at around 3 am, Vipin Kumar’s father waited inside the ambulance with his oxygen cylinder till hospital staff brought a stretcher to take him into the emergency ward.

Inside the ward, the doctors started the paperwork to have his father admitted. "My father was thirsty and he asked them for water but they said that they did not have water for themselves," Kumar said.

The hospital staff told Vipin Kumar that his father had to be taken to a ward located 500 m away, in an ambulance. A staff member, who was zipped up in personal protective equipment, asked Vipin Kumar to get his father to sit in the ambulance.

"We were just in a simple mask…but I had to put my father in the ambulance without any PPE kit," he said. "They were doing this with every patient. He [the hospital staff] did not even know how to use the oxygen cylinder…I kept telling him that it was leaking."

With his father inside the ambulance, Pradeep Kumar, the hospital staffer and Vipin Kumar stood on the vehicle’s footboard as it rode towards the other ward.

"The ambulance drove on the main road," Vipin Kumar said. "Hum latak latak ke gaye," he said. We went there while hanging.

When they reached the other ward at around 5 am, Vipin Kumar helped his father out of the ambulance. The hospital staffer told him to get an extra pair of clothes for this father.

Vipin Kumar repeatedly called the hospital authorities though Saturday and got through only at around 5.30 pm when a staffer told him that his father was being treated with oxygen and that doctors were trying to control bleeding from piles.

The ordeal of getting his father admitted to the hospital had left Vipin Kumar questioning its operations. "I did not find anything safe there, whatever I saw," he said. "Do they not have the sense that I have worn a thin mask and that we could get it too…we did not have any PPE?"

This article originally appeared on and has been reproduced with permission.


Author Image

Vijayta Lalwani is a journalist at and is based in Delhi.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (21) Closed

Jun 08, 2020 01:42pm
very sad story. india and pakistan have problem of irresponsibility by hospital staff and also by police department. both countries still need to work very hard to teach and preach to the staff of such public departments how to be honest and polite and hard working. there is lack of proper education and nationalism in both countries.
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Jun 08, 2020 02:01pm
That is the state of a hospital bed in New Delhi, in their much vaunted health system. India advancing fast, a G6 nation now.
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Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad
Jun 08, 2020 02:04pm
Tip of the iceberg.
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Pure ind
Jun 08, 2020 02:05pm
Well it's tough every where.. No one expected such a medical emergency to hit globally... The doctors are as human as anyone else..
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Jun 08, 2020 02:10pm
In my view, Modi rely upon fake news and forget that truth cannot be hidden and eventually come out. After Trump, Modi is slowly and gradually will be exposed - just wait for a little longer.
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Jun 08, 2020 03:46pm
This situation probably not far different from what prevails here. The largest number of casualties in the 1918 pandemic were in India, both countries take note.
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Jun 08, 2020 03:49pm
@bhaRAT©, it’s a sad situation even in most advanced countries where they are prioritising between who should be saved and who it may be ok to not be taken for treatment.
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Jehengir khan
Jun 08, 2020 04:09pm
Pandemic has gone out of control.....actual number has crossed millions but government is faking information....
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Randeep Hooda
Jun 08, 2020 04:45pm
@Anti-Corruption_Pakistani, Modi is not going anywhere. in India states governement runs the hospital not central government central government only problem provide aid still it's failure but not modi's.
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Randeep Hooda
Jun 08, 2020 04:47pm
Your fellow citizens will again come to the india for medical treatment,once corona crisis get over. You can ask them why they go to India not for china.
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Jun 08, 2020 06:07pm
@Randeep Hooda, You nailed it,you can add medicines to the list
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Jun 08, 2020 07:16pm
@Ahmed, “ This situation probably not far different from what prevails here.” Situation in Pakistan is much worse. But difference is that unlike India we have no delusions of grandeur. So no disappointment or shock.
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Jun 08, 2020 07:53pm
we are too many. chinese style of governance needed.
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Saif Zulfiqar
Jun 08, 2020 09:17pm
Everything is possible in Modi's government.
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Jun 08, 2020 09:45pm
Its situation everywhere, patients in NY is also sent back if they are young due to lack of beds. The virus is bad.
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Jun 08, 2020 10:26pm
I am pretty sure Mahapurush Kejri will be out in next election. So will be Uddhav Thakre for Mumbai situation. In Bangalore, there are only 146 active cases with less than one percent of beds occupied. Why Bangalore is Science and Technology capital of Asia, now I can feel.
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Jun 08, 2020 11:28pm
@Imran, It is these dreams that keep us looking into the future, work hard, sometimes these dreams will be shattered at other times they will achieve what they dreamed of. Illusions of grandeur , to achieve the impossible, go one step further and trying to do better than the next person is a necessity for progress. Let's not be afraid of failures.
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Owais Khan
Jun 09, 2020 12:42am
Need for the hour for both countries to improve the healthcare to the standards where ventilator and bed ratio to person per 100,000 is better , instead of working on nuclear warfare
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Jun 09, 2020 02:07am
@bhaRAT©, In USA it was worst in NYC and USA is G1, so figur out.
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lilly jill
Jun 09, 2020 04:28am
What else do you expect in these countries. The only thing people know is how to produce endless # of kids that's it.
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Jun 09, 2020 09:52am
Big mistake. Never go to a hospital. Your chances are better at home. What happened in USA and NY should be an eye opener.
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