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India's packed hospitals forced to turn COVID patients away

India's COVID-19 crisis worsens
India hospitals overwhelmed as country continues to set grim coronavirus records 02:40

Delhi — People are dying in record numbers amid the surge in coronavirus infections in India. CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay found that even the capital city's hospitals are desperately short on beds, forcing them to turn away people battling symptoms of COVID-19. 

CBS News watched as one woman showed up breathless at the Moolchand Hospital in Delhi, desperate for oxygen and a bed. The facility has some of the best resources in New Delhi, but there was no space left, so they sent her away. 

Dr. Nabeel Rahman runs the emergency room at Moolchand, which has been converted into extra space for an ICU that, still, is absolutely crushed with patients. He told CBS News that his team had resorted to purchasing its own oxygen supplies privately, at massively inflated prices, amid a desperate national shortage. 

The patients in the expanded ICU are extremely sick, but they're also extremely lucky: In a country that's losing the battle against COVID-19, they're lucky to have oxygen, lucky to have access to doctors and lucky to have beds in a hospital that's well over capacity. 

The Wider Image: As COVID ravages India, a 26-year-old doctor decides who lives and who dies
Relatives of a patient suffering with COVID-19 argue with a police officer over admittance to the emergency ward at Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi, India, May 1, 2021. DANISH SIDDIQUI/REUTERS

Many of India's coronavirus victims caught the disease during huge religious gatherings, which were promoted by the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it campaigned for recent state elections.  

School teachers were ordered to oversee voting stations, and many were among those who caught the killer virus. About 700 died of COVID-19.

Shad Hasan's mother is one of the teachers who survived, but now she's on life-support, and he told CBS News that he couldn't afford to get her potentially life-saving medication.  

Like many Indians, Hasan blames India's government for the shortages, and for allowing the huge events to go ahead unchecked this spring, putting his mother and countless others at risk.

"At this time of crisis, how can you be so stupid?" he wondered.

India surpasses 20 million coronavirus cases 04:53

Hasan said he'd never forgive the country's leaders for missteps that he believes have left thousands to suffer.

But for most working-class Indians, the situation is even more dire. People are literally dying in line, waiting to refill oxygen tanks.

Bear in mind that India is one of the world's most populous nations — home to almost 1.4 billion people.

With many cases and deaths going unreported, the true toll that COVID-19 is taking in the country is believed to be up to 10-times higher than reflected in the official figures, which are already harrowing with a death toll over 200,000 and more than 20 million infections confirmed.

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