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Delhi hospitals seek oxygen for 4th day, 25 Covid patients die at Ganga Ram

Alarm bells rang ceaselessly as supply of oxygen to hospitals in the capital remained severely constrained for the fourth straight day on Friday.

Written by Astha Saxena | New Delhi |
Updated: April 24, 2021 2:07:45 am
Patients lie on hospital beds outside GTB Hospital in New Delhi on Thursday. (Express Photo: Anil Sharma, File)

At least 25 critically ill Covid-19 patients who were on high-flow oxygen at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital died between Thursday and Friday morning. The hospital, one of Delhi’s largest private hospitals, did not officially link the deaths to the shortage of oxygen.

Alarm bells rang ceaselessly as supply of oxygen to hospitals in the capital remained severely constrained for the fourth straight day on Friday.

Hospitals put out SOSes on social media platforms, restricted new admissions, and reduced the number of beds as they grappled with the shortage of medical oxygen for patients sick with Covid-19. Dr D S Rana, chairman of the Ganga Ram Hospital board, told The Indian Express: “Those who have died were critical Covid patients and were on high-flow oxygen support. We cannot say that they have died due to lack of oxygen support.

“However, the situation is grave at every hospital. They are trying to get adequate oxygen for their patients. All we need is uninterrupted and timely supply of oxygen.”

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Ganga Ram had said on Thursday morning that it was running dangerously low on oxygen, and had only about an hour’s supply left. Over 700 Covid-19 patients are admitted in the hospital.

The Delhi government’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital began to discharge patients who were relatively stable. Sources said the decision was taken after an in-house technical committee estimated that the existing supply of oxygen would be unable to manage the patient load.

“For any hospital, oxygen is the major support system. As supply has been fluctuating for the last few days, we have decided to reduce the number of Covid beds in the hospital. It’s better to apologise to the patients now rather than feeling sorry later. We have discharged all those patients who can be monitored under home isolation,” a senior doctor at the hospital said on condition of anonymity.

“In the current wave, it is important to focus on the quality of treatment rather than quantity,” the doctor said. The hospital has reduced the number of its Covid beds from 500 to 350.

Around 8 am on Friday, Max Healthcare reached out to the authorities on social media, saying it was running out of oxygen.

“SOS: Less than an hour’s oxygen supplies at Max Smart Hospital & Max Hospital Saket. Awaiting promised fresh supplies from INOX since 1 am. Over 700 patients admitted, need immediate assistance,” the hospital tweeted, tagging the Prime Minister’s Office, the Delhi Chief Minister, and Union and Delhi Ministers.

Max subsequently posted an update saying it had received oxygen, but it would not last long. “We have received emergency supplies at Max Saket and Max Smart which will last another 2 hours. We are still awaiting more supplies.” Between the two hospitals, it had 700 patients, including 550 Covid patients, Max said.

At 11 am, the 500-bed Batra Hospital, which had been waiting for oxygen, declared that it faced an “emergency”. The hospital moved Delhi High Court in the afternoon, following the lead taken by Max and Saroj Super Specialty Hospital earlier.

Dr SCL Gupta, medical director of Batra Hospital, said, “It’s an emergency situation. We require 7,000-8,000 litres of oxygen per day and in the last 24 hours, we have been provided only 2,400 litres of oxygen. We have not been taking any new admissions for the last two days.” There are 352 Covid patients in the hospital.

Holy Family Hospital in Okhla, where 385 Covid patients are admitted, said the situation was “bad” on Friday morning.

Dr Sumit Ray, medical superintendent of the hospital, told The Indian Express: “The oxygen supply was replenished by 3 pm. Now we have the supply that will last till Saturday noon. This (shortage) has become a daily routine.”

Metro Hospital & Cancer Institute in Preet Vihar said it had been struggling to get uninterrupted oxygen supply for the last two days. The hospital had moved around 30 critical patients to its other centres in Noida, Faridabad and Shadipur by Thursday night, and was planning to discharge some patients.

“We are calling attendants and asking them to take patients out of the hospital. Since Thursday, we have been managing with oxygen cylinders, but that is not adequate. There are around 80 patients in the hospital,” a senior officer of the hospital said on Friday evening.

Staff at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in Vasant Kunj spent the day trying to find oxygen cylinders. The hospital sent ambulances carrying empty cylinders to Panipat, Palwal, and Bawana for refilling.

Dr K Preetham, medical superintendent of the hospital, told The Indian Express: “We have 150 patients in the hospital out of which 100 are being managed on oxygen cylinders. Even cylinders are not available… This is not the job of a hospital. The government should have a centralised system through which oxygen cylinders can be provided to hospitals.”

The hospital said it was now using one cylinder for two patients using connectors, and also using each connection for the hospital’s central supply of oxygen for two patients.

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