'Just think of doing good': Indian paramedics battle deluge of COVID-19 patients

Facing a deluge of very sick patients and overfilled hospitals, Indian paramedic Ankita Patel says she keeps her growing fear at bay by focusing on her patients as the coronavirus pandemic rages around her.

Patel works as a paramedic in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad and provides pre-hospital care to patients in the ambulance. Although only 31, she has been in the job for a decade.

"I have been working for so long, but now because of COVID-19 situation, it has become very difficult for us to operate but still we try to give good care and get the patients into hospitals," she said.

"We feel very good doing this, but sometimes we also feel scared. However, despite all that we try to forget everything else and keeping nice feelings in our hearts, just think of doing good."

Wearing a white protective suit and mask, Patel gently holds the hand of an elderly woman lying on a stretcher in an ambulance and monitors her oxygen levels.

Her family is supportive of her work, she says, but she is afraid of bringing the virus home.

"Sometimes they feel scared that I work in such risky conditions and then come home in the evening... but still they support me and I also feel good that they appreciate me for working in this field," she said.

Before the pandemic, Patel and an ambulance driver would typically take about two hours to attend to an emergency, including transporting patients to hospital and giving them the necessary care.

Now, the rise in the number of COVID-19 patients and acute shortage of beds in the hospitals means she sometimes spends several hours taking care of the sick in the ambulance while waiting for hospitals to accept them.

India, the world's second-most populous nation, is in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed by the pandemic, medicines and oxygen in short supply and strict curbs on movement in its biggest cities.

The authorities reported 386,452 new cases and 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, but medical experts believe actual COVID-19 numbers may be 5 to 10 times greater than the official tally.

But Patel has no choice but to get on with her work. At a government hospital, she waits for doctors to admit a patient she has brought.

The man, who is lying on the floor with an oxygen tank next to him, had difficulty breathing but his oxygen levels had now improved, Patel said.

"Right now I have brought him to a government hospital but there is a wait over here. So we will have to wait." ā€“ Rappler.com