A man walks wearing a face mask due to heavy smog in New Delhi [File Image]
A man walks wearing a face mask due to heavy smog in New Delhi [File Image]

Delhi pollution: Patients gasp for oxygen amid respiratory emergency, ICUs running full across city

Priyanka Sharma | Updated: Nov 03, 2019 16:44 IST

By Priyanka Sharma
New Delhi [India], Nov 3 (ANI): The national capital is witnessing public health emergency with hundreds of patients having respiratory problems being shifted to intensive care units (ICUs) by their pulmonologists because of the worsening air quality in the city, including the general wards of the hospital.
On Sunday, Delhi witnessed thick smog with Air Quality Index (AQI) touching the peak levels and reaching the hazardous category. ANI took the ground report from different hospitals across the city and spoke to doctors which revealed that ICUs at most places were running overbooked and patients were being put on ventilation.
Previously, patients with existing respiratory illnesses were managed with medicines and nebulisers, however, the deteriorating air quality has worsened the situation and most patients need ICU admissions.
Weather forecasts say the situation is not likely to improve in the next few days.
Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman of Chest Surgery Department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital told ANI: "On Saturday, we received a patient in casualty with severe respiratory distress. We gave him nebuliser and then also his condition did not improve. We also shifted him to the respiratory division ward but there was still no relief. Lately, we shifted him to the ICU and put him on the ventilator. So, this is the situation of air quality in Delhi and we all are gasping to breathe."
Meanwhile, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has revealed that post-festival celebrations, patients with respiratory complications have increased by five folds in the OPD. These include- children, pregnant women, elderly and patients with pre-existing diseases.
Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS said that present air quality is equivalent to inhaling the smoke of at least 50 cigarettes a day and is very dangerous for children.
Dr Vikas Maurya who is head of the pulmonary department at Fortis Hospital said: "Patients in ICU have shot up by at least three folds. We have admitted a lot of patients in ICU who could not be managed in the general ward. People with pre-existing respiratory diseases are at major risk. Children, the elderly, pregnant mother are more vulnerable. If this crisis of air pollution continues, ICU beds will fall short in some days. We need solid management by the government to tackle air pollution. This is a deadly situation."
At BLK hospital, OPD has increased by 300 per cent and patients in wards have doubled post the Diwali celebration period, said Dr Vikas Maurya, head of Respiratory medicine department.
"Even normal individuals have become patients now. I don't know what to say to patients suffering from respiratory distress. Some of them are shifted to ICU and are using BiPAP machines (sometimes prescribed for patients with high-pressure settings and low oxygen levels). We are advising patients to go out of Delhi those who can afford. But this is not the solution. As a doctor, I feel very helpless to see my patients who were doing better and now gasping for breath", he said.
At Gurugram, the situation is not any better and more and more patients are coming to the hospital with air pollution-related issues.
"The worsening pollution is surely taking a toll on the patients and the public at large. New patients (previously healthy) are reporting with cough, breathlessness, nausea decreased appetite and depression symptoms. The increase of these patients has been 30 per cent from the baseline", said Dr Himanshu Garg, Head of Department of Respiratory Medicine at W Pratiksha Hospital, Gurgaon.
He also stated that the patients of pre-existing Respiratory disorders are having a tough time surviving this weather.
"Many of them have been admitted mostly in the ICUs and could not be saved. About 50 per cent of patients are experiencing a flare-up of symptoms with 20 per cent have severe problems", Garg said.
Notably, for the first time in this season, the Air Quality Index (AQI) docked as high as 625 at 10 in the morning despite light drizzles in the early hours.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 "satisfactory", 101-200 "moderate", 201-300 "poor", 301-400 "very poor", and 401-500 "severe". Above 500 is "severe-plus emergency" category. (ANI)