Maharashtra: Nagpur hospitals grapple with oxygen shortage

Nagpur needs 180 metric tonnes (MT) of medical grade oxygen; at present it’s only able to generate 146 MT, and was able to procure some from other sources, including a supplier in Bhilai.
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Published on Apr 24, 2021 12:28 AM IST
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ByPradip Kumar Maitra, Nagpur

Nagpur’s beleaguered healthcare infrastructure is grappling with multiple challenges, from a steady rise in coronavirus patients to a shortage of oxygen, hospital beds and anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

Nagpur needs 180 metric tonnes (MT) of medical grade oxygen; at present it’s only able to generate 146 MT, and was able to procure some from other sources, including a supplier in Bhilai. However, a Central ministry order dated April 18 cut down the supply from the Bhilai supplier, Prax Air, from 110MT to 60MT following which the Vidarbha region – which requires at least 266.5MT of oxygen --- was facing a shortfall of at least 100 MT.

This even prompted the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court (HC) to pull up the state and Centre for the prevailing mess, particularly on oxygen and Remdesivir shortage. This has hit urban centres like Nagpur hard: the district has the state’s second-highest case fatality rate (CFR; percentage of deaths per 100 cases) at 0.95% and the highest test positivity rate (TPR; number of positive cases per 100 tests) at 34%.

On April 20, two private hospitals asked relatives to shift patients over oxygen shortage. However, district collector Ravindra Thakare stepped in an assured oxygen supply following which the families did not have to scramble for new beds. Viveka Hospital had 47 patients on oxygen with 10 in the ICU while Nucleus Mother and Child Super Speciality Hospital on Wardha Road had 62 patients on oxygen.

“The current stock will suffice for one and half hour from now (20.00 hours). We are forced to evacuate patients as our oxygen supply has been reduced to 120 cylinders only. We will be informing patients’ relatives shortly to make appropriate arrangements for shifting their patients. This is for your kind information and attention as we are too helpless,” said Priyanka Pawar, manager administration, Viveka Hospital, Nagpur in a social media group of doctors and officials of district administration. This led the district collector to take prompt action and the hospital got oxygen cylinders next morning.

Dr Prashant Jagtap of Viveka Multispecialty Hospital in west Nagpur said the management was planning to discharge about 100 patients (60 on Covid beds and 40 on non-Covid) because of shortage of oxygen. “Oxygen was short in supply, but the issue was later resolved with the intervention of the collector and officials of Nagpur Municipal Corporation,” he said. “Now we are managing it somehow,” Jagtap said.

Dr Anup Marar, convenor of the Vidarbha Hospital Association, said the oxygen shortage has reached alarming levels in Nagpur. “Without oxygen, we are clueless how to continue treatment of patients who are currently admitted,” he said.

Dr Marar, who is also the director of Orange City Hospital, said that it is getting increasingly difficult to run the hospital without adequate oxygen. “We have 81 Covid beds along with 10 ventilator supports. But we have no backup of oxygen cylinders. Without extra cylinders, how can we save the patients if the supply is not replenished in time?” he asked.

Nagpur is able to generate about 146MT of oxygen daily, but its requirement is around 166.5MT, the collector Ravindra Thakare informed the HC. Thus, even government facilities are not much better off.

Dr Sudhir Gupta, dean of government medical college said that they are just about able to manage the 900-odd Covid beds in the facility. “Yes, we are facing shortage of oxygen. But our prime problem is to provide beds to needy and here we are unable to do it in time because of our limitations,” he pointed out.

Retired state electricity board employee Shivshankar Walundare (71) succumbed to Covid-19 early Thursday morning after he was unable to find an oxygen bed for the last five days. His son Kunal (39), a real estate broker said that his father tested positive eight days ago. “As his oxygen level was below 80, we were frantically looking for a hospital bed with oxygen. But we got none either in a government or a private hospital,” he said. All members of his family, including his mother, sister and himself, were also infected with the virus.

Krishna Maske, a friend of the family who is also Covid positive, learnt about the availability of a bed with oxygen at in a private hospital Bhandara, 65 km from Nagpur, on April 20 evening. “We immediately arranged an ambulance with an oxygen cylinder and headed to Bhandara,” he said. There, the hospital denied admitting Walundare, because his O2 level was now 75, Maske said.

By this time, Walundare’s condition had worsened, and he was in dire need of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed with a ventilator; but he was only able to get an oxygen bed in municipality-run Covid centre at Umred on Wednesday evening, and that too with the help of a local politician.

“It was too late and Shivshankar breathed his last early this morning,” Maske said.

Another hospital at Chhatrapati Square on Wardha Road, Nucleus Mother and Child Superspeciality Hospital, reportedly put a notice on April 20 evening, requesting family members of those patients on oxygen support, to shift them to another facility. The notice was widely shared on social media. A doctor from the hospital, who wished to remain anonymous said, 62 patients were on oxygen beds. “We had a stock of only 40 jumbo cylinders since morning. We requested the collector and many others for additional stock but in vain. After our request, relatives of three patients took them to other hospitals. Now, the collector has assured of supply. Treatment will continue provided we get the supply,” he said.

As the plight of the common man continues, the guardian minister for Nagpur district, Nitin Raut, claimed that they are trying their level best with various sources to meet the demand.

The district collector, Ravindra Thakare said that the situation of Nagpur is slowing under control. “We are hopeful that the shortage of oxygen and other Covid medicines would be resolved within a day or two,” he added.

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