In a letter that surfaced on social media, the Uttar Pradesh law minister has lashed out at his state’s health authorities, complaining that beds for coronavirus patients are falling short and ambulances take hours to arrive in the UP capital, which he said could face a lockdown again. Law Minister Brajesh Pathak’s purported letter on the situation in his constituency also blamed the recent death of a scholar on the lack of an ambulance, though Padma Shri-winner Yogesh Praveen’s family has denied making this charge.
When contacted Pathak did not reject the existence of a letter, which also appears to challenge the UP government’s claim that it is on top of the fight against coronavirus. “I had written a confidential letter to the government," he told PTI, refusing to elaborate further.
“The beds for COVID-19 patients in hospitals should be increased, testing should be increased and enough testing kits should be made available, said the letter written Monday to Additional Chief Secretary (Medical and Health) and Additional Chief Secretary (Medical Education). If COVID-related circumstances are not controlled soon, we will have to impose a lockdown in Lucknow to prevent its spread," it added. The letter surfaced Tuesday on social media.
“It is with extreme pain that I am informing that currently in Lucknow district, the condition of health services is extremely worrying. For the past one week, I have been getting hundreds of phone calls from the entire Lucknow district, he said. “No reply is given when the office of the Chief Medical Officer is dialled. After complaining about this to the medical and health minister and to the Additional Chief Secretary-Health, the phone is picked up, but no positive work is done, he charged, seemingly referring to his own experience.
It is taking four to seven days to get coronavirus test reports. The patients don’t get the ambulance in time, the minister wrote. The ambulances take five or six hours to arrive, the letter in Hindi alleged.
“Today, the condition of Padma Shri awardee Dr Yogesh Praveen deteriorated and I myself informed the chief medical officer on phone, and requested him to make an ambulance available immediately. But, sadly, despite the passage of some hours, he did not get an ambulance and died as he could not get treatment in time," Pathak said. “In the current COVID-related circumstances, when every day 4,000 to 5,000 coronavirus patients are detected in the district, the number of beds in COVID hospitals is very less, Pathak said.
He claimed COVID tests are not being conducted at private pathology centres in Lucknow and the process takes days in government hospitals. Pathak claimed he recently spoke to a senior medical department official who told him that 17,000 test kits are needed every day but only 10,000 are available.
He said the situation is worse for non-COVID patients such as those suffering from diseases like cancer and heart ailments, or those who require dialysis. Such patients are not getting treated in time due to the pandemic, he said. We have to seriously look into the provisions for admitting such patients." He said the number of beds in COVID hospitals should be increased and testing stepped up.
Reacting to the letter, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Anurag Bhadauria said, “Health facilities in Uttar Pradesh have completely crumbled, and this is being said not by us, but by the law minister of the state. When officials don’t take phone calls from a minister, the condition of the common public can be imagined."