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COVID-19 Crisis in India – Osmani General Hospital in Hyderabad.

July 18, 2020

The COVID-19 ICU ward at Osmana General Hospital in Hyderabad, India flooded with rain water and sewage three days ago.


Early this morning I received a message on social media from someone in Hyderabad, India. When I first read this S.O.S. I was drinking my first cup of coffee in my backyard in Denver Colorado at 6 a.m in the morning., a time of day, when frankly the voices of other human beings are too painful to listen to.Focusing on anything other than the birds at a nearby birdbath takes something close to a herculean effort.

It was a plea for help, for support, specifically for face masks to help fight the Coronavirus outbreak there in Hyderabad, a central Indian city of more than ten million inhabitants. Was this – as my daughters used to say “for reals” or just another scam, bogus request for money like so many others that occur on media platforms like Facebook. I get so many of them.

The plea included photos of several emaciated, sick looking South Asian people wearing face masks, described as COVID-19 patients in an ICU ward of the Osmani General Hospital in Hyderabad, India. A short, disturbing video was included showing a flooded hospital ward with patients laying in their beds, water a good foot above the ground. (Later it turned out that the “waters” combined excessive rainfall with local sewage).

It was the video that made me pause. Is this really going on?

I was about to “blow it off” and unfriend the sender – I do a lot of that – but curiosity got the better of me. Maybe this IS a genuine crisis. After all, although people in this country are fixated on the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States – and how criminally irresponsible it is being handled by the Trump Administration, this is a global pandemic. There are places in the world where the pandemic is being handled as poorly as here in the United States and one of those countries appears to be India.

My “correspondent” described himself as “fighting the government,” – which by the way,  any concerned citizen worth his/her salt should be doing. In this case, the “fight” was to address the disgraceful conditions at Osmana General and the accompanying local government neglect to provide a more serious response to the pandemic. He went on to claim that the hospital union was doing its best to fight for improvements for both the patients and the staff, but that the union is poor and that he and his comrades are donating their salaries to help in the effort.

Not long ago, socialist scholar Mike Davis gave a lecture in which he compared the Coronavirus pandemic with the great 1918-1020 flue epidemic. Among his main points: far more people – numbers in the millions – died of that earlier pandemic in India than in Europe and North American combined. But then it’s simple: we’re all in this together – or should be, shouldn’t we – be it in Hyderabad, India, Bogata Colombia, Ligata, Sicily, Italy or Denver Colorado USA. And then, he did not ask for money but for masks.

Besides, like climate change, the danger of nuclear war, fighting Coronavirus will take a coordinated worldwide effort.

It was easy enough to check up on this claim.

A simple Google search verified the story.

Frankly it is all over the media in India including videos of the shameful conditions in the COVID-19 ICU wards and even more shameful lack of government response. The state, Telengana, government has been under fire for some time for how they have dealt with – or failed to deal with – the COVID crisis. Made me wonder if the state’s governor has been getting advice from the governors of Florida and Arizona!

Three days ago, on July 15, India Today, the most widely circulated weekly magazine in the country, ran a story “Watch: Rainwater, sewage enters Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad second time in 3 day.” The sub-headline read “The hospital premises were flooded as rainwater and sewage entered as many as six wards which were completely inundated, including the ICU, located on the ground floor, causing inconvenience to patients and healthcare staff.” This is the second time this week that the hospital has been inundated with flood waters and sewage.

A patient at the hospital commented, “So many problems; the water stinks. We are unable to eat anything and are throwing up. There is nobody here to help us.”

Curiously, this article does not mention that Osmania General Hospital is one of the main centers for COVID-19 patients. It serves a huge population in old city of ten million people.

The article went on to note that “a political activist” one Qmjadullah Khan, had asked the Telangana Governor Tamilsai Soundarajan to intervene, the suggestion being that the state had done little to address the situation to date. In a tweet, Mr. Khan requested “In a tweet, he said, “Madam, see the horrible situation at Osmania General Hospital. Since yesterday, it is overflowing with rainwater. Request you to kindly visit the hospital and take a stock of the situation.”

It is a very polite way of saying that the provincial authorities haven’t lifted a finger to address this awful state of affairs. The tweet included more video of people walking barefooted through the sewage in a hospital corridor. There were several other video clips of the awful conditions at the hospital included in the article. While Telangana officials claimed that they are addressing the situation, from all appearances the administration has acted with nothing short of criminal neglect.

In another related news story, Uttam Kumar Reddy, Persident of INC Telangana attacked the state government and said:

This is the state of Osmania Govt Hospital now!! Corona Pandemic sweeping the city and look at waterlogging in one of the most well-known government hospitals in the heart of Hyderabad!! Reflecting the abysmal standards of KCR Administration.”

Osmania General Hospital is one of the biggest in Telangana and was built by Mir Osman Ali Khan. It started operating in 1910. The weather department has issued a heavy rainfall warning for Hyderabad.

In India, the number of cases has surpassed one million, with 26,273 deaths, according to the counry’s health ministry website.

Hyderabad is half way around the world, from Denver. Denver, Colorado – Hyderabad, India – same struggle, different front.

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