Mumbai Hospitals Occupied With COVID-19, Patients With Chronic Diseases Struggle

Non-surgical treatments are getting delayed; some hospitals have temporarily suspended outpatient department (OPD) services.

Santosh Bala has got stranded in Mumbai after lockdown.


A week into the nationwide lockdown to fight novel coronavirus or COVID-19, many hospitals in Mumbai are struggling to offer treatment to those having chronic diseases - such as cancer or HIV- as majority of resources are being used to deal with rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Dr Tanveer Majed, consultant surgical oncologist at Reliance Hospital in Navi Mumbai, said he has postponed "non-life threatening surgeries" post lockdown. "Due to scarcity of hospital beds, resources, we have been forced to take decisions based on our clinical understanding of the subject."

Not just infrastructure, staff shortage is another challenge for hospitals as employees find it difficult to commute due to suspension of transport services amid lockdown. "We are dealing with staff shortage. Most of them - about 30 per cent - stay far off and due to shutdown of public transport services like trains, we are facing problems," Dr Majed said.

Non-surgical treatments are getting delayed; some hospitals have temporarily suspended outpatient department (OPD) services.

Many patients from other states and their families, who got stranded after transport services were suspended, are also struggling to find accommodation.

Santosh Bala, a resident of West Bengal's Siliguri, arrived in the city with his wife and brother for cancer treatment over a week ago. However, his train back home on March 22 was cancelled after Prime Minster Narendra Modi's "Janata Curfew" call. He got stranded in the city along with his family.

Santosh's brother Rajesh told NDTV, "We had a return ticket for March 22. But train got cancelled. We are not even getting a hotel room anywhere due to the lockdown."

All three of them are currently living on a road in front of Tata Memorial Hospital, which specialises in cancer treatment.

Zeeshan, who is from Maharashtra's Beed district, came to Mumbai for his father's treatment for throat cancer. His father is hospitalised at Tata Memorial Hospital and there's no place for him to stay, but on the roads.

"I had asked the hospital trust to give us rooms but they say once the coronavirus health crisis is over, a room will be provided. My father is hospitalised. Shops are also closed everywhere. We are getting some food as people come forward to help, but not getting any room anywhere," he said.

As per the government data shared in parliament, there were 1.6 million cancer patients in the country as of 2018.

India has reported 1,637 COVID-19 cases so far, recording a huge jump in the last few days. Of these, 320 have been reported from Maharashtra.

Worldwide, over 40,000 people have died, nearly 800,000 have contracted the infection.