April 30, 2021 12:01:13 am
Even as the Delhi High Court held a hearing Thursday on the allotment, availability and transport of oxygen in the national capital, hospitals struggled to manage with reserves lasting, in several cases, a few hours.
On Thursday, Delhi government’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital tweeted that the pressure in oxygen system cannot be sustained beyond midnight due to depletion of their cylinder stock. The hospital has 350 beds, all of them occupied. Last week, the administration had to reduce the number of beds on offer from 650 to 350 because of shortage of oxygen.
In the afternoon, SOS calls went out from Sehgal Neo Hospital in West Delhi — the 100-bed hospital had increased its capacity to 150 during the pandemic. “Currently, we are operating on a dangerously low supply, which can lead to a very serious patient incident including loss of life,” a statement issued by the hospital read.
Speaking to The Indian Express in the evening, Dr Narin Sehgal, who heads the hospital, said: “For now, the DM has intervened and I have been promised two liquid oxygen units out of the seven I need. These will last around 5-6 hours. After that, the struggle will start again.”
According to Sehgal, the problem has existed since the patient load increased. “An administrative decision was taken recently, where one vendor was assigned to us. This is not our regular vendor. Now he does not have liquid oxygen, which is what we need. We use 7-8 liquid medical oxygen cylinders in a day. These will be equivalent to at least 250 normal oxygen cylinders, which we have to find, transport, fill and then bring back. I have requested that my regular vendor be assigned,” he said.
For smaller hospitals across the city, this has been a constant fight for the past 10 days, since the time demand surged. According to Dr S C L Gupta from Batra Hospital in South Delhi, the situation is back to when they had approached the Delhi High Court to help resolve the crisis.
The hospital has around 290 patients at present, with a few others in the casualty department. “We can scale up to between 350 and 400 beds, provided we are given adequate oxygen. Two agencies have been assigned to us but the problem is that they aren’t fulfilling our demands. We have around two hours of oxygen left,” Gupta said at 7 pm.
“We were told that we will get 4.9 MT liquid oxygen per day, of which 2.5 MT will come from Inox. Inox was our sole supplier earlier but now the other supplier has said they can’t send us the remaining amount as they don’t have stock. After much persuasion, they promised to send 2-3 MT by 11 pm tonight but added that they will not give anything for the next two days. We are beggars right now and have to agree,” Gupta said.
At several other hospitals, such as Vimhans in Southeast Delhi, patients were asked to make temporary arrangements. Officials said they were given 800 litres of oxygen by evening, which would last a couple of hours.
These delays have forced doctors to become negotiators.
During the hearing, Batra Hospital’s Executive Director Dr Sudhanshu Bankata told the court, “Instead of focusing on treating the patients, we are running from pillar to post. We request the kind intervention of the court to save us, save all the hospitals from this crisis. The system has totally collapsed. We just need your assistance. We beg for it”With many hospitals complaining about supply of medical oxygen, the court issued notice to all the suppliers of liquid oxygen to Delhi. It asked them to remain available the data with regard to the supplies made by them to hospitals during the hearing on Thursday.The division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said the problem is it has passed the order and the system has been put in place by the state. “Despite that if the gas is not coming, if it is in short supply. Where do you get it from? Where do we produce it for you,” the bench said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia wrote to Union minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal requesting an increase in the oxygen supply allocation from 490 MT to 976 MT. He also wrote that the city had not got oxygen even once in the last 10 days from the three plants situated more than 1,500 km away from the city.
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