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Oxygen shortage chokes hospital

mumbai Updated: Dec 01, 2009 02:29 IST
Neha Bhayana
Neha Bhayana
Hindustan Times
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Rani Daniel, who is suffering from gall bladder stones, was scheduled to undergo a surgery at the St George’s Hospital near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on Monday.

Her operation, however, was cancelled in the morning as the hospital ran out of oxygen cylinders.

Shortage of essential medicines has hit patient-care services at the government-run hospital. There has been no saline solution, which is given to patients before and after surgery, for over a month.

The shortage of oxygen cylinders forced doctors to cancel routine surgeries on Monday.

Daniel (44) may have to wait a week for her surgery. “I have been suffering for six months. My stomach aches a lot. I really wanted the surgery to get done today,” she said.

Surgeries of two men admitted to Ward Number 2 were also postponed.

Emergency surgeries were conducted as a few oxygen cylinders are kept in reserve but a doctor said they were risky in the absence of adequate stock.

A blackboard in Ward Number 10, where Daniel is admitted, stated that there was ‘No stock’ of injections of Ampicilin, Emset and Omnatax, which are basic antibiotics.

A senior doctor, who did not wish to be named, said that they had been asking patients’ relatives to buy saline and medicines/injections from chemists outside. The antibiotic injections cost about Rs 40-50 each and have to be given thrice a day for five days.

“If there is an emergency and a patient can’t afford to buy medicines, we can procure them from the medical store on campus but there is a long procedure, many signatures are required and the store closes at 5 pm,” he said.

Reliable sources said the hospital had only 32 oxygen cylinders though at least 50 are required at any point of time.

Doctors blamed inefficiency of the administration for the shortage.

“Empty oxygen cylinders have to be sent to the supplier on time so they can be re-filled and returned,” said a doctor.

Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr MG Kadam initially denied that there was a shortage of medicines or that surgeries had been cancelled.

But when this reporter told him about the notice board in the ward, he said: “This is a problem of one or two days. Sometimes the supplier does not have enough stock. We have alternative medicines that are equally effective.”

Dr Kadam added the hospital was planning to set up a liquid oxygen plant so they don’t have to depend on suppliers.

Medical superintendent Dr Chandrakant Gaikwad could not be contacted as he has been on leave for the last three days.