Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s first reaction to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal overruling him on treating “outsider” patients in city hospitals was hardly reassuring to the capital city’s residents. He tweeted that the L-G’s decision was a “challenge and a problem” for Delhi and threw in a bit of scare mongering too, worrying about patients “from across the country” flooding the capital. However, he trailed off by promising to attempt to treat everyone.
Already two incidents have been reported in today’s papers of a Delhi resident and a Ghaziabad resident dying after being denied treatment in Delhi hospitals. The Delhi man then desperately travelled to Bhopal seeking treatment. These are warning signs of existing healthcare capacity fast getting exhausted even for capital residents. The bogey of outsiders flooding Delhi hospitals is a distraction from this reality.
Delhi can learn from Mumbai, which set up a giant Covid care field hospital at the Bandra Kurla Complex with over 1,000 beds and is now aiming for an eight fold increase in bed strength through such field hospitals. With the possibility of successive waves of infection, such makeshift hospitals that can be quickly erected will ease the burden on other hospitals to focus on legacy illnesses. Kejriwal needs to prepare for the long haul. No amount of blaming “outsiders” can solve Delhi’s capacity problem until there is a capacity expansion.