As the hospital had no free beds, even patients battling for their lives were either turned away or kept waiting, giving anxious moments to their family members.
Sordid scenes played out in front of the hospital on Tuesday when a critically ill patient gasping for breath in an almost unconscious state was given immediate care in the ambulance due to lack of beds.
The authorities too expressed helplessness as the government hospital was left with no beds for doctors to let in patients.
“The hospital has 650 beds and, of this, 550 are with oxygen supply for treatment of COVID-19 patients. But currently, the hospital is overwhelmed with 800 patients. For others, oxygen is given using cylinders through hoses. Hence, we couldn’t take new patients coming by ambulances and they are kept waiting for admission until the beds get vacant,” said R Murugesan, Dean of Government Mohan Kumaramangalam Medical College and Hospital.
Unfortunately, most of those coming to the hospital were in a critical condition and had to be given oxygen in pipes with adequate pressure of supply. “To tackle the crisis, those who improved in health were shifted to non-oxygen beds so that more patients could be treated. The situation has become worrisome as all private and government hospitals in the district are also full. Therefore, they have been diverting patients to our hospital,” he added.
The Salem GH authorities claimed that they has placed a request to improve the bed strength after the hospital touched full occupancy a few days ago.
“Work is underway to improve the bed strength by 350. Still, it may be inadequate as the patient inflow is high,” said another official.
The GH authorities however denied that there has been any short supply of oxygen and said there was adequate stock to treat existing patients. The district has been registering more than 500 new cases on a daily basis and several persons have died of the infection in the last few days.