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Long queues of patients, decreasing oxygen supply: Jamnagar hospital fights odds

As many as 170 ambulances and other vehicles were waiting for entry to the hospital at one point on Thursday.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot |
Updated: April 30, 2021 11:19:26 pm
Long queues of patients, decreasing oxygen supply: Jamnagar hospital fights odds Gujarat covidDozens of ambulances and private vehicles ferrying patients for Covid-19 treatment were lined up outside the GG Hospital during most part of the day on Friday, a daily scene since early this month. (Express File/Nirmal Harindran)

On April 27, family members of Chhagan Charola from Morbi allegedly heckled the staff of Guru Gobind (GG) Singh Government Hospital in Jamnagar where the 65-year-old had died that morning. They alleged that the staff stopped oxygen supply to Charola, leading to his death.

The hospital administration, however, said that the patient had severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and that he died due to infection in lungs and comorbidities, not due to a dip in oxygen level.

Charola, who had tested negative for Covid-19, was one among over 100 casualties that day in GG Hospital, the second largest public hospital in the state. The hospital has around 2,000 beds for Covid-19 patients, of which 1,608 have oxygen facilities and around 300 are ICU beds.

All of these beds have remained fully occupied for more than two weeks now as Covid-19 patients from neighbouring districts such as Morbi, Rajkot Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar and even from far away districts such as Surendranagar and Junagadh are rushing here for treatment.

The hospital needs 52 kilo litres (52 metric tonnes (MT)) of oxygen daily but the supply since mid-April has been an average of 42.65 MT per day, sources say. In fact, the supply has dipped further to 37.02 MT since April 25.

In the past one week, “an average 100 patients (confirmed Covid and suspected Covid) have succumbed daily, while undergoing treatment at the GG Hospital with Thursday seeing a new peak of 127 deaths”, a top district official told this paper on condition of anonymity.

The hospital, however, maintains that it is trying to manage the situation. “It is true, oxygen has been in short supply but we are managing the situation in the best possible manner. We have not refused treatment to anyone so far though patients may have to wait for some time before getting admitted,” Dr SS Chatterji, Covid-19 nodal officer for Jamnagar and a senior doctor at the GG Hospital, told The Indian Express on Friday.

Dozens of ambulances and private vehicles ferrying patients for Covid-19 treatment were lined up outside the GG Hospital during most part of the day on Friday, a daily scene since early this month. As many as 170 ambulances and other vehicles were waiting for entry to the hospital at one point on Thursday. “Around one-fourth of the 100-odd patients dying here every day succumbs while waiting for admission,” a source said.

Dr Chatterji agrees the patients have to wait for a few hours before they get admitted. “Till two-three days ago, the average waiting period was eight to nine hours but now it has come down to three to four hours. However, our staff attend to the patients during this time. Every day, our flu OPD handles 552 to 700 patients with an average of 300 being admitted,” he said, adding, “GG Hospital is the last recourse for patients from Morbi, Surendranagar, Rajkot, Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, etc., besides those from Jamnagar and therefore, the rush has been unprecedented.”

An official release from the government said that of the total 4,608 active cases of Covid-19 in Jamnagar, only 872 were hospitalised while the rest were in home isolation.

On Friday, Jamnagar district registered 748 fresh cases and 17 deaths by Covid-19 as per the official state bulletin. The neighbouring Rajkot district has also been recording similar numbers for many days. Most of the hospital beds in Rajkot —both private and government — have remained occupied for the past three weeks. Save Jamnagar, Rajkot and Bhavnagar, capacities of hospitals in the remaining eight districts of Saurashtra region is very limited.

When asked if there is any correlation between the daily mortality in GG Hospital and supply of oxygen, Dr Chatterji said: “Not all patients are succumbing due to shortage or non-availability of oxygen. All were very critical with very low levels of oxygen saturation. Late admission can be one factor…”

Jamnagar District Collector Ravi Shankar said the government is making all efforts to tackle the situation.

“GG Hospital is the only hospital in Saurashtra that provides oxygen support to patients waiting outside as well. We have increased the number of beds… Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is setting up a 1,000-bed Covid-19 hospital and that should take some pressure off the government hospital,” Shankar said, adding the RIL hospital being set up in Dental College in Jamnagar city would make 400 beds available by Monday.

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