FIROZABAD: With government hospitals running out space and private hospitals asking for deposits upfront following the viral fever outbreak, farmers and daily wagers from rural Firozabad — already struggling with limited access to healthcare and a teetering local economy — have been forced to borrow money at exorbitant rates or sell off the few valuables they have to get their family members treated.
Shanti Devi, for instance, took her sick husband to a private hospital in Firozabad. The bangle unit worker from Nagla Amaan village was asked for Rs 20,000 before her husband, a bus driver, could be admitted. “I didn’t have the money. I borrowed from a local lender. Now, I have to repay Rs 30,000 in six months. I don’t know how,” she told TOI. Her work has been shut for a month because of the outbreak. Her husband had been too sick to report to work.
Subhash Kashyap, a farmer from Khera Langar, had to borrow Rs 50,000 to get his six-year-old daughter admitted. “Private hospitals won’t even admit patients without the deposit,” he said. At Jampur, Nandan Kumar, a labour contractor, sold off his wedding ring for Rs 45,000 to get his 16-year-old son treated. “The hospital had asked for Rs 30,000,” he said.
It is the same across villages. “People are scared. They are selling off jewellery and animals to arrange for treatment at private hospitals,” said Kamla Devi at Okhra village. “In our village, eight people have died in a month. Two children died waiting for treatment at Firozabad medical college. What can they do?”
Known as the ‘glass city’ of India, Firozabad’s glass industry has been the community’s economic backbone and supports more than six lakh people. After the viral fever outbreak, most of the 400 registered units and 1,500 supply units practically shut down. The workers anyway made just about Rs 200 a day for eight hours of work, TOI had reported. With even that gone, people are in dire straits. “I have not earned one paisa in three weeks. The manufacturing unit shut down and I don’t know when and if it will resume. My five-year-old son has fever and diarrhoea. I had to borrow Rs 2,000 for his medicines and our food,” said Santosh Kumar, 40, from Firozabad.
For some, what they can scrape together is eventually not enough. Jugendra Singh has borrowed over Rs 1 lakh for the treatment of 10 of his family members at a private hospital in Agra. He is a farmer from Gadhi Kalyan, unwell himself, with high fever. “The community health centre is not admitting patients with symptoms,” he said. “My daughter Neha, 9, died on September 19 after battling high fever, stomach ache, exhaustion and vomiting for five days,” he added. “Her mother doesn’t know yet. She is too sick herself.”