Several hospitals in Delhi sent out desperate calls to authorities to replenish their oxygen supplies when they dropped precariously, threatening lives as the health infrastructure was crumbling under the pressure of an unprecedented rise in the number of Covid patients requiring oxygen or ICU support.
With the city reporting over 20,000 new cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) each day, city hospitals have been facing acute oxygen shortage for nearly two weeks. Many hospitals sought help from the authorities on social media and three --- Sita Ram Bhartiya Hospital, Venkateswara Hospital, Maharaja Agrasen Hospital --- moved the high court, demanding replenishments, saying lives were at stake.
Delhi received 454 MT of oxygen in the last 24-hours against its increased quota of 590 MT. This doesn't even meet its previous quota of 490 MT. The Delhi government has demanded 976 MT of medical oxygen to add 1,200 ICU and 15,000 oxygen beds. According to the Delhi Corona app, only 20 ICU beds of the total 5,154 were available at 11pm on Sunday.
Delhi government officials said that the Indian Oil Corporation has given five tankers to the Capital to transport oxygen. On Sunday, the government deployed an official at an oxygen plant in Faridabad to ensure steady supply.
After the Vimhans hospital sent out an SOS around 7pm on Sunday, AAP MLA Raghav Chadha tweeted, "This is criminal abdication on part of those who were supposed to supply oxygen. However, we are in process of arranging 2MT of LMO for Vihmans from our reserves so that they get through the night. I urge Central Govt to deliver to us the allocated oxygen. We too are raising SOS." At least 94 patients were admitted at Vimhans ICU when the hospital said it was about to run out of oxygen.
The oxygen shortage has directly resulted in the deaths of 32 Covid-19 patients in two private hospitals of the city in the last ten days. Without attributing any deaths to the shortage, managing director of Aakash healthcare in Dwarka Dr Aashish Chaudhry said, "With erratic oxygen supply, many a times the pressure to the machines in the ICU drops, we have teams on standby but it does result in the worsening of clinical conditions of some."
Around 1pm, the Madhukar Raibow Children Hospital and Sitaram Bhartia hospital, which are primarily mother and child care hospitals, reached for the last few cylinders of oxygen on Sunday.
"It has been a constant challenge for the last ten days or so as the need for oxygen soared. We used to need 10 to 12 cylinders of oxygen a day, now we use 90 to 100 cylinders. The government has allotted vendors to us but when we are in need, they might not have supplies. We do high risk deliveries and many neonates are on ventilators other than Covid-19 patients," said Dr Shishir Paul, clinical director of Madhukar Rainbow hospital, where at least four babies with Covid-19 were admitted on Sunday morning.
Madhukar rainbow is the only hospital that has consistently reserved ICU beds for pregnant women and children even as the city had completely run out of ICU beds.
Sitaram Bhartia hospital ran out of liquid oxygen on Sunday afternoon and has been managing patients on oxygen cylinders ever since. They received some 20 cylinders as an emergency backup from the government reserve. "But, with the current demand, five cylinders last about 40 minutes," hospital officials said. Their full tank of oxygen used to last 14 days earlier, now it lasts about 24 – 30 hours, they said. The hospital had four babies on oxygen supply, two of whose mothers were Covid-19 positive and admitted to the same hospital.
Maha Durga city hospital ran out of liquid oxygen at 2am on Sunday morning; the oxygen tanker with emergency supply of 0.7MT reached the hospital at 7 am. For five hours, the hospital managed the 130 Covid-19 patients on backup oxygen cylinders. The hospital received another 2MT of oxygen by afternoon, however, there was no assurance for further supply as the vendor had said they were not getting any oxygen.
"We have been allotted a restricted quota of 2.7MT, our current requirement is 3.5MT," said Dr Nitin Makhijia, medical director of the hospital.