New Delhi: At Delhi’s Jaipur Golden Hospital, a woman kept weeping as she left the emergency room. A relative of hers was one of the 20 people who had died Friday night in the wake of a severe oxygen shortage at the facility.
“We found out through the news. We didn’t know they had died because of an oxygen shortage. We would have tried to arrange our own had we been informed in time,” said the woman, before receding into a car.
Medical director of Jaipur Golden Hospital Dr D.K. Baluja told ThePrint, “We were supposed to get a refill of 3.6 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen by 5 pm (Friday). But it never arrived.”
“I frantically called the Inox people, who are our suppliers, but no one answered the phone. Finally by 12 (midnight), we arranged 1.5 MT through AIIMS, but the pressure in our central oxygen systems had dropped,” he added.
Now, barely 24 hours later, the hospital finds itself in the same situation. On Saturday evening, the hospital put out an SOS tweet saying that over 200 lives are at stake if liquid medical oxygen is not supplied by 9 pm tonight.
Next impending oxygen crises in Jaipur Golden Hospital. Over 200 lives at stake if liquid medical oxygen is not supplied by 9:00 PM tonight.@ArvindKejriwal @PMOIndia @drharshvardhan @MoHFW_INDIA @narendramodi @LtGovDelhi
— Jaipur Golden Hospital (@JaipurGolden) April 24, 2021
The hospital had received a fresh supply of oxygen Saturday afternoon, but Dr Baluja said it wouldn’t be enough to last the whole day.
“There’s a major supply shortage. We’re getting 40 per cent of the requirement every time, and when I finally got through to Inox, someone admitted to me that our requirement was beyond their capacity. In the four decades that I’ve been a doctor, I’ve never experienced this. In another few hours, I’m going to have to beg for oxygen again,” Dr Baluja said.
Patients who are currently admitted have been asked to organise their own cylinders.
Rakesh Pal has a pregnant wife in the ICU who survived Friday night’s ordeal. He was asked to bring in a cylinder to support her oxygen needs.
“I was asked yesterday by the hospital to organise my own cylinder for my wife, who is 32 and pregnant. I brought it today. I don’t know how long the cylinder will last,” Pal said.
The hospital is turning away new patients, in the fear that they won’t be able to manage.
“I don’t want to admit patients when I can’t guarantee what will happen to them in a few days. I cannot increase my load,” Dr Baluja said.
The tragedy comes just a day after 25 critical patients died at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital — among the most prestigious in the national capital — allegedly because of oxygen crisis.
Matter of life and death
The shadow that hangs on Jaipur Golden Hospital has left several other hospitals shaken.
SOS calls for oxygen have continued in the city despite an increase in overall oxygen allocation — from 378 MT Thursday to 480 MT now — in the capital.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Delhi’s requirements came to about 700 MT. On Saturday, he tweeted saying he would write to the chief ministers of all states to ask for their spare oxygen.
I am writing to all CMs requesting them to provide oxygen to Delhi, if they have spare. Though Central govt. is also helping us, the severity of corona is such that all available resources are proving inadequate.
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) April 24, 2021
At a micro level, hospitals across the capital said their allocations are less than what is required at the moment.
“We require about 2.5 MT and were allocated 2 MT. Today, we were in a situation where half-an-hour would have been a matter of life and death,” said Madhu Handa, medical administrator of Moolchand Hospital.
The hospital has 160 Covid patients and over 60 per cent of them are on high-flow oxygen.
“Had we not got the oxygen in the nick of time, it would have been a tragedy. Everyone was in tears. We are currently running on 1 MT, which will last till 1 am tonight. We can only hope the supply comes on time now,” she added.
Fortis Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, which had put out an SOS message on Twitter Saturday afternoon, received oxygen supply at 7 pm, said Dr Bishnu Panigrahi, group head of medical strategy and operations, adding it will last them for two days.
Of the 280 patients admitted there, over 90 are critical. The hospital has been allocated 3 MT oxygen, but only got 1 MT Friday night, said Dr Panigrahi.
“We will be in big, big trouble. Our patients won’t last the day if we don’t get the oxygen,” he told ThePrint before the oxygen stock was replenished at 7 pm. “These oxygen supplies are bound by contracts, but there’s a supply crunch.”
Saroj Hospital, which nearly ran out of oxygen, also narrowly averted a catastrophe Saturday afternoon when a truck of oxygen arrived at the hospital just on time.
The hospital had in the morning asked its patients to leave the facility if they couldn’t organise their own oxygen. But it’s only a matter of a few hours before the ordeal begins again.
“We’ve received 0.5 MT of oxygen in the afternoon, which will last us three to four hours. Our requirement is between 2.5 and 3 MT. Our regular tank is due by 6 o’clock (Saturday), but there’s no telling whether it will come. We have been fighting for it. That our patients survived is only a matter of luck,” said Dhiraj Malik, medical superintendent of the hospital.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)
This report has been updated to accurately reflect that the supply of oxygen at Fortis Hospital in Shalimar Bagh was replenished.