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Bihar Covid-19: Patna hospitals grapple with oxygen short-supply

Bihar continues to log a high number of Covid-19 infections with 12,795 cases, including 1,848 in Patna and 1,340 in Gaya, reported on Sunday, taking the number of active cases to more than 87,000.
PUBLISHED ON APR 26, 2021 12:20 PM IST
More than 1.01 lakh Covid-19 tests were conducted across Bihar on Saturday.

Oxygen shortage continued to cripple treatment of Covid patients at both private and government hospitals in Patna as their attendants ran from one hospital to another in search of the life-sustaining gas on Sunday.

Officials estimate city hospitals need around 7,125 oxygen cylinders per day to treat critical patients, however, the administration has so far managed to raise the supply only to around 6,900 cylinders per day, leaving a shortfall of over 200 cylinders.

Kin of Prabhakar Sinha, a Covid patient admitted to a Patna private hospital, which had run out of oxygen, struggled without luck trying to find one oxygen cylinder on Sunday, when Sinha’s oxygen level dropped drastically. He luckily survived after the oxygen supply was restored to the hospital in the afternoon, however, there is still no back up, said a family member. "It has been a nightmare for us. The entire health system has collapsed,” the relative said, wishing not to be named.

Patna district magistrate (DM) Chandra Shekhar Singh said they were working overtime to bridge the shortfall so that no patient died for want of oxygen. “Today, a defunct plant of oxygen located at Marcha Marchi area of the capital city was operationalised to supplement the supply. We have shorted all issues and activated the plant on an urgent basis. Now, we are looking to arrange for trained manpower so that the plant could work in 24x7 mode,” said the DM, adding, three other plants have been activated to supply bottled cylinders.

Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) and Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), the main public Covid treatment centres, together required around 2600 oxygen cylinders per day—one third of the city’s total oxygen requirement. “The existing oxygen generation plants at the PMCH and the NMCH are not capable of dealing with the rush of patients in a pandemic,” said a senior government officer.

Rajesh Kumar Rathore, who has been supervising the state Congress task force, set up to help Covid-infected people with oxygen and other essential medicinal supplies, said the state machinery didn’t prepare itself for the current wave of the disease. “The state’s health machinery became complacent and hence woke up rather late... to streamline oxygen supply. We are managing the oxygen cylinders for critical patients, who are quarantined at home after a lot of difficulties,” said Rathore.

Bihar continues to log a high number of Covid-19 infections with 12,795 cases, including 1,848 in Patna and 1,340 in Gaya, reported on Sunday, taking the number of active cases to more than 87,000. Apart from this, 68 patients died in the 24 hours preceding the release of the data by the state health department on the same day. On Saturday, Patna alone reported 2,479 fresh Covid-19 cases.

More than 1.01 lakh tests were conducted for Covid across the state on Saturday. The rising number of Covid-19 casualties too has thrown up a new challenge in the long-waiting time at crematoriums. In many instances, it has taken up to 20 hours to get a chance to perform the last rites, said an official at one of the ghats along the river Ganga.

“Around 100-150 bodies are being cremated per day on different ghats of Ganga. Most of the bodies are being disposed of as per Covid protocol, even though a majority of them were not confirmed Covid deaths,” said an official at Gulbi ghat.

The state health department has issued an advisory, asking moderate Covid-19 patients in home isolation to take emergency anti-viral, antibiotic and vitamin supplements along with fever suppressants. They have also been advised to inhale steam and gargle twice a day.

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