“If only we had had proper health facilities here, my father would always be with us,” said Puneet Vatsa, 27.

Puneet lives in Katewara, a village of about 3,500 people on the northern edge of Delhi. When the second wave of the pandemic hit the capital last month, it also crashed into its outlying villages. There are 108 villages in the state of Delhi, mostly located along its outskirts, which are home to more in total. Most of these villages do not have adequate health facilities, making it difficult for people affected by Covid to get proper care.

In Katewara, Narela, there is an ill-equipped dispensary where villagers can get tested for Covid but not be treated. In fact, the villagers have complained, the doctors are rarely there. When Laundry visited the dispensary around 3 p.m. on May 21, it was closed.

So when Puneet’s father Rajesh Kumar, 54, caught coronavirus on April 12, he had to be admitted to Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, 12 miles away. After more than a month of battling the virus, he died on May 17.

Rajesh is one of at least 31 people in the village to have died from Covid in the past 20 days, according to Deepak Khatri, chairman of the village development committee, who issued their death certificates. “These are archives of people who died in their homes after contracting the virus,” he added. “The actual figure would be much higher since we do not take into account those who died in hospitals. We don’t have their records. “

The Delhi government does not provide Covid figures for rural and urban areas separately, although with municipal authorities. In total, Delhi has so far recorded more than 14.2 lakh coronavirus infections and more than 23,000 deaths, although the actual numbers are likely to be higher.

It’s a similar story in the village of Sultanpur Dabas in neighboring Bawana.

Nittoo, who does not use a second name, lost his mother, Azad Kaur, 53, to Covid on May 12. After showing symptoms, Nittoo, 32, took her to a local doctor on May 5 who tested her for Covid. . She tested positive and the doctor put her on a basic treatment regimen. But on May 12, his oxygen level dropped to 74.

Since the local dispensary closed as well as private clinics, Nittoo has seen the sister of a friend who is a doctor. She advised giving him more oxygen from a bottle they had arranged. “His oxygen level dropped again to 54,” he said.

Nittoo called an ambulance to take him to Maharishi Valmiki Hospital, the only private hospital in the area. “There was a doctor on duty and he refused to admit my mother. They didn’t have a bed for her, ”Nittoo said.

Hospital chief medical officer Jitendra Kumar, however, said Laundry that it was not a designated facility for Covid treatment.

Nittoo then transferred her mother to LNJP Hospital, a public health facility located about 33 km from her village. By this time, his oxygen level had dropped further. She died a few minutes later.

Sultanpur Dabas has lost at least 40 people to coronavirus in the past 20 days, according to several villagers we spoke with. And villagers, like those in Katewara, accused the government of neglecting the public health system. They complained that the local dispensary was not equipped to treat Covid patients, beyond distributing drugs such as paracetamol for mild cases. Thus, the villagers are forced to go either to private hospitals or to government hospitals in the city.

“There is no Covid hospital in our area,” said Deepak, the head of the village development committee which is associated with the ruling Aam Aadmi party. “If a person is in urgent need of oxygen, we cannot rely on dispensaries.”

He complained that a new dispensary set up for his village and adjoining Qutubgarh by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, and opened twice since 2015, was still not functional. “It has a hundred beds and could easily have been converted into a Covid hospital,” he said.

But, he added, their repeated calls to the government to make it functional have not been heeded.

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