Alarm bells rang relentlessly in Delhi’s hospitals as supply of oxygen 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 fought the shortage of medical oxygen for patients sick with Covid-19.
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 high 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.
On Thursday morning, one Delhi’s biggest private hospitals, Sir Ganga Ram, said 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.
Sources said at least 25 critically ill patients who were on high-flow oxygen at the hospital died between Thursday and Friday morning. The hospital did not officially link the deaths to the shortage of oxygen.
Dr D S Rana, chairman of the 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.”
Around 8 am on Friday, Max Healthcare reached out to the authorities on social media, saying it was running out of oxygen. “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.
The hospital subsequently confirmed it had received oxygen. “The Delhi government has sent in 2 MT of emergency oxygen supply. 1MT filling at Max Smart Hospital and 1 MT for Max Hospital, Saket. Between the two hospitals, we have 700 patients, including 550 Covid patients. Currently filling up at Max Smart, Hospital, our COVID only hospital,” it said in a statement.
At 11 am, the 500-bed Batra Hospital, which had been waiting for oxygen, declared that it faced an “emergency”. The hospital later moved the Delhi High Court.
Dr SCL Gupta, medical director of the 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.”