Four days after Manoj Sharma's 6-year-old son first fell ill with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease rampant in urban India, his body showed signs of shock: a plunging platelet count, vomiting and labored breathing. At 2 a.m. on Sept. 13, Mr. Sharma suffered a shock of his own, learning that the private clinic that had given his son a vital platelet transfusion — with a $182 bill — lacked the resources to provide further treatment.
He spent the next three hours ferrying his wife and son on the back of his scooter to different hospitals that he said were unable, because of overcrowding, to treat the boy.
Finally, the nonprofit Holy Family Hospital admitted his son, Aman, who spent several hours in the intensive care unit but ultimately died. All told, Mr. Sharma had taken his son to five hospitals in six days, secured two platelet transfusions and a stay in an intensive care unit, paying about 70,000 rupees — around $1,100 — with loans from his mother and brother.
"I was numb," Mr. Sharma said. "He died before my eyes."
During the annual dengue season, roughly from August to November, stories like Aman's circulate through the city. The dengue outbreak in Delhi appears to be the worst in years — as of Thursday, more than 9,000 registered cases and 30 deaths, the highest numbers since 2006. The stories have a depressing sameness, describing families looking for lifesaving treatment left on their own to navigate a dizzying array of public and private providers.