Amid an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths over the past few weeks, Khulna division is now clamouring for oxygen -- a component key in saving the lives of critical patients.
While few hospitals in Khulna division have already run out of the life-saving gas, many other medical facilities are operating on the edge due to an acute shortage of oxygen.
In the past week, seven breathless Covid-19 patients have died at Satkhira Medical College Hospital in Satkhira district due to the unavailability of oxygen. A probe has been ordered into the deaths on June 30.
In Khulna district, the largest specialised government hospital is overwhelmed by a sudden surge in Covid cases -- it has not only stopped corona testing but is also scrambling for beds and oxygen.
At Khulna Medical College and Hospital, UNB has learnt that Covid testing has been suspended due to technical problems.
Moreover, nearly 190 patients have been admitted to the hospital as against 130 beds in the last few days. The hospital has only 77 centralised oxygen beds, making other critical patients dependent on cylinders sourced from outside.
Though the hospital authorities claim they have 500 cylinders in stock, relatives of critical Covid patients are struggling to get hold of portable cylinders.
"Within minutes, the cylinder I kept beside my relative's bed became someone else's," said the kin of a Covid patient.
"We have been running from pillar to post for an oxygen cylinder. My sister will die if we don't get it soon," said an anxious brother of another patient.
Vice president of KMCH, Dr Mehedi Newaj pleaded helplessness. "Whenever the number of patients crosses 170, the crisis becomes hard to handle. If patients keep rising, the situation will get out of control."
According to oxygen suppliers, only in Khulna city, the daily demand is currently 700 cylinders while they are only able to supply 410.
"The demand for small cylinders has skyrocketed in Khulna, as we get calls even in the small hours of the day," said a supplier, who did not wish to be named.
In fact, the gap between the demand and supply of oxygen is widening by the day in Khulna, in a clear indication of an impending catastrophe.
On June 29, some 265 patients tested positive for coronavirus in Khulna, putting the positivity rate at 46.47%. The testing has been suspended since June 30.