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Amid oxygen supply crisis in Delhi, smaller hospitals hit hardest

Most of these hospitals or nursing homes depend on oxygen cylinders for their supply, requiring up to 100 cylinders that need to be refilled at 14 designated vendors every day.
The Capital on Monday received 433 MT medical oxygen – lower than Saturday’s 454MT, which was the highest for a single day yet. (PTI Photo/Kamal Kishore)(PTI)
Published on May 05, 2021 03:50 AM IST
ByAbhishek Dey, Richa Banka, New Delhi

A children’s hospital in south Delhi’s Kalkaji sent out an SOS on Tuesday morning, saying it had only two hours of oxygen supply left with at least 10 children on oxygen support and six on ventilator.

Triton Hospital is among several mid-size and smaller hospitals or nursing homes which continue to face a supply crisis, with Delhi receiving roughly half of its daily liquid medical oxygen demand. Need for medical oxygen in the city has shot up in the wake of hundreds of people rushing to hospitals with severe lung infection, requiring oxygen support as an unprecedented wave of Covid-19 infections sweeps through the city.

Most of these hospitals or nursing homes depend on oxygen cylinders for their supply, requiring up to 100 cylinders that need to be refilled at 14 designated vendors every day.

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The Delhi government sent supplies to Triton after several people shared a written appeal by the hospital on Twitter. “Fret not! We’ve got this. Have assigned 3 D-type cylinders from our SOS reserves maintained at Rajghat Reserve Point, to Triton Hospital. We will also assist the hospital re-establish their oxygen supply chain,” tweeted senior AAP leader Raghav Chadha.

The Capital on Monday received 433 MT medical oxygen – lower than Saturday’s 454MT, which was the highest for a single day yet – even though the Supreme Court asked the central government on Sunday to ensure Delhi receives 700MT. With the city receiving over 400MT for three days in a row, bigger hospitals received supply with some time to spare. The smaller ones, largely dependent on oxygen cylinders, continued to face the crisis and resorted to pooling cylinders.

By Tuesday noon, Delhi received 307MT, which includes 205MT that arrived through oxygen express trains, said a government official, who did not wish to be identified. The full figures for Tuesday will be summarised after midnight, the official said. A senior railway official said another 244MT oxygen was scheduled to arrive in Delhi on oxygen trains in the early hours of Wednesday.

“On May 3, we received 433 MT oxygen against a demand of 976MT oxygen – which is roughly 44% of the total demand. Over past one week, Delhi received around 393MT oxygen per day on an average – which is around 40% of the total demand. This oxygen deficit is leading to distress situation in hospitals across the city. We have put in place an effective management system to deal with distress calls from hospitals. We have created SOS reserves,” said Raghav Chadha, who is in charge of the oxygen SOS management system in Delhi.

He further said, “Yesterday (May 3), we received 41 SOS calls from hospitals. These hospitals collectively have 7,142 oxygen beds. It gives a sense of the scale of risk we are dealing with. All 41 calls were resolved. We sent total 21.3MT oxygen in response to the distress calls from the hospitals – which include Irene, Kukreja, Triton and Rainbow hospitals. In one case, an oxygen truck heading for one hospital – which still had some oxygen left in its reserves -- was diverted towards another that suddenly reported a worse crisis.”

Among the hospitals that sent out calls for help was Indian Spinal Injury Centre. Early Tuesday morning the hospital said its stock will last only 30 minutes. “We got the supply in the nick of the time. We are always in a crisis like situation – our requirement is around 4.8MT, the government allocated us 3.9MT, and we have been getting around 1.83MT. And, in the last 10 days the number of sick patients has gone up, they need a lot of oxygen to maintain saturation,” said Jasleen Kaur, general manager marketing, Indian Spinal Injury Centre. She said that the government has been helping with the liquid oxygen supply but getting their hands on cylinders has been a challenge. The hospital need cylinders for the additional beds that do not have facility for oxygen pipeline as it is mainly an orthopaedic hospital.

Govt sets up helpline

The Delhi government said on Tuesday that it has set up a new 24x7 emergency helpline and a call centre to attend distress calls from hospitals regarding oxygen shortage, even as it estimated that the supply was likely to increase over the next two days.

In a statement, the government said that the new helpline is expected to bolster the current strategy of oxygen allocation among hospitals on a day-to-day basis aimed at “optimal utilisation of the given oxygen”.

The statement further said that the government has deployed officials across several oxygen plants in other states to ensure hassle-free supplies.

“The Delhi government has appointed three IAS officers and more than 20 call centre executives to ensure smooth functioning of Oxygen supply and distribution,” the statement read.

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