As a hopelessly oblivious administrative system slept on during the COVID-19 pandemic in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow, a senior journalist live tweeted his deteriorating oxygen levels. He died before help could reach him. Here’s his story and those of many others.
Senior independent journalist Vinay Srivastava of Lucknow took to Twitter to give a minute-by-minute account of his fast-deteriorating health and declining oxygen levels and plead for medical help, while the government system kept pressing him for more information.
Sixty-five-year-old Srivastava died at home in the absence of medical treatment or a bed. His health updates exposed the truth of the state’s health machinery. It showed that even after 20 hours, no medical help could reach an elderly person in the state capital.
Vinay’s COVID-19 test report came positive. After his death.
Here’s a timeline of what happened to Vinay.
April 16, 7.52 pm
Vinay Srivastava, a resident of Vikas Nagar in Lucknow, suddenly takes ill. His oxygen level plummets to 52. Oxygen saturation below 94 is considered concerning. He takes to Twitter: #Yogi Adityanath: “Doctors and hospitals in your state have all turned autocratic. I am 65 years old. I also have spondylitis. The oxygen level in my body has come down to 52. No hospital, lab or doctor is picking up my phone.”
April 17, 2.01 pm
The government helpline number 112 finally responds at 2.01 pm, about 18 hours after the first tweet and asks for a contact number.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s information advisor Shalabh Mani Tripathi responds: ‘Please provide full details.’
Vinay Srivastava’s son Harshit shares the name, number and address and receives an ‘OK’ in reply.
A user tweeted: “Respected Babuji, trust Hon’ble Yogiji, you will be helped soon. Trust Shalabhamani Bhaiyya.”
Vinay replies 22 minutes later. “How much longer can I keep faith for now my oxygen level has come down to 50. The security guards at Balrampur hospital are not allowing us to enter the hospital.”
Some people object to his post. Some condemn him for being pro-BJP. Saddened by this, Vinay tweets at 2.33 pm: “I have voted for the country and not for any particular politician. God forbid that someone close to you has this problem and you should ask them such questions.”
Vinay shares his full address, including pin-code, upon failing to receive any help.
Disappointed upon finding no help, Vinay tweets once again. “My oxygen level has dropped further to 31, when will anyone help me?” He also shares a shot of the oximeter. This is his last tweet.
April 17, 4.21 pm
Harshit Srivastava informs his father is no more and questions, “Where are all the ambulances?”
Everyone’s an accomplice to this murder: Harshit
On April 18, Gaon Connection spoke to Harshit over the phone. Crying, he said he took his father to numerous hospitals only to be rejected by all. Everyone wanted a COVID test report. “I begged the doctors saying the report would come only after twenty four hours, but my father needed immediate attention. No one listened. Everyone is an accomplice to my father’s murder,” he said.
What happened to Vinay is not a lone case. A letter from retired district judge Ramesh Chandra, a resident of Vinamra Khand, Gomti Nagar in Lucknow, is going viral on social media. On April 15, 67-year-old Chandra informed that both he and his wife, 64-year-old Madhu, tested positive and that his wife passed away at 10 am on April 15.
“I kept calling the numbers provided by the administration since 7 am yesterday [April 14]. Neither did anyone come with medicines nor were we taken to hospital,” Chandra wrote. He alleged Madhu died due to negligence of the administration. When no one was available to even pick up Madhu’s corpse, he desperately sought help.
When Gaon Connection called his number, a woman picked up the phone. Crying, she only said Madhu would have survived with treatment.
Similar reports of helpless, hapless patients and their families begging for help on social media are coming in from across the country. On the night of April 17, in the national capital of Delhi, a woman sat waiting with her unwell husband in an ambulance for 45 minutes outside Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital. She was sobbing and her husband lay still. After some time, he was declared dead. This is a searing example of the ground reality of our health facilities.
Outside the same Delhi hospital sat a patient with an oxygen cylinder. He had found a bed in the hospital, but did not get oxygen despite his falling O2 levels. He discharged himself, arranged for a cylinder and parked himself outside the hospital.
Sometimes, one has to go back to the poetry of the past to make sense of the present.
Dushyant Kumar writes:
Yahan Toh Sirf Goonge Aur Behare Log Baste Hain/
Khuda Jaane Yahan Par Kis Tarah Ka Jalsa Hua Hoga
(This place is inhabited only by the mute and deaf /God knows what kind of merriment must have taken place here!)
(Views are personal)