Oxygen equipment to treat COVID-19 patients in a Nagpur hospital devoted to the poor
by Nirmala Carvalho

Two ventilators and two oxygen concentrators arrived recently at St Joseph's, the diocesan hospital in one of the most COVID-19-affected rural areas. “Every home is affected by this sickness and people have no money to treat themselves,” Archbishop Gonsalves said.

Nagpur (AsiaNews) – Archbishop Elias Gonsalves of Nagpur yesterday blessed two ventilators and two oxygen concentrators that arrived at St Joseph’s Hospital, Yerla, near Nagpur (Maharashtra). The arrival of the new equipment is a small sign of hope.

The diocesan medical facility is located just outside Nagpur, in one of the areas most affected by the new terrible wave of COVID-19, serving a mostly poor rural populations.

Despite a slight drop in the number of cases in recent days, the pandemic continues unabated in India. Yesterday 276,110 new cases were officially reported with 3,874 new deaths.

Faced with an increasingly serious situation, St Joseph’s Hospital opened a COVID centre on 1 May, but it only had basic medical equipment. Still missing were ventilators, oxygen concentrators and medicines for the treatment of COVID-19.

For this reason, Archbishop Gonsalves appealed to India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, whose constituency is in Nagpur. Thanks to him, the equipment was sent to the hospital, and has been in operation since yesterday.

“The hospital also runs a quarantine centre and a COVID kitchen that serves free meals to patients and those serving the COVID infected,” Archbishop Gonsalves told AsiaNews. “Currently we have 50 poor patients who are totally dependent on our charity and service.”

With a population of 2.41 million, Nagpur is one of the places most affected by COVID-19 in Maharashtra.

“The pandemic has entered the community spread phase, which is very dangerous,” a local health official explained. “In Nagpur district, 6,364 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours and 113 have patients died. Nagpur’s caseload stands at 329,470 people with 6,386 fatalities.”

Speaking to AsiaNews, Archbishop Gonsalves confirmed the tragic picture. “Nagpur has been badly affected by this pandemic,” he noted.

By and large, locals are “daily labourers, domestic workers, masons and unskilled workers with low incomes. Every home is affected by this sickness and people have no money to treat themselves. There are long queues outside hospitals and people are dying waiting in the queue.”

The prelate added: “It takes a minimum of four days in the queue before a patient is admitted to the hospital, and even if one gets in, the means available are often insufficient to heal people.

“In most cases, patients get significantly worse while waiting as their oxygen saturation drops below 85 per cent, resulting in multiorgan failure and death.

“The main problem is the lack of timely treatment, especially for the poorest in rural areas. Ventilators and oxygen concentrators will help deal with this serious situation.”