Amid a massive shortage of oxygen cylinders being recorded across India, several hospitals in New Delhi have alleged that officials of the Haryana government have ordered stoppage of oxygen supply to other states. On Thursday, in a tweet, Dr Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals, alleged that an oxygen tanker outside the Air Liquide plant in Panipat (Haryana) was not being allowed to enter the plant, so that it could be sent to Delhi.
Dr Sangita also alleged that the Haryana police were stopping the vehicle, not letting liquid oxygen cylinders being transported outside the state. However, she later said that the tanker was allowed into the plant and that the oxygen would be sent out soon. She also appealed to the Union government ministers as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mark oxygen tankers as ambulances in order to enable quick transportation.
Delhi has been facing a serious shortage of oxygen supply for the last week amid the surge in severe cases of COVID-19. Hospitals have been calling for help (on social media and media), alerting the Union government about running out of oxygen supply, by the hour. Helpless families of COVID-19 patients experiencing shortness of breath are struggling to find oxygen cylinders. Visuals from Delhi hospitals (and other parts of the country too) show ambulances and cars rushing to hospitals, while many stand outside the hospitals, waiting for admission.
Some hospitals like Shanti Mukund hospital in Delhi had to put up a sign outside, stating they are stopping admissions as they don’t have oxygen supply to treat COVID-19 patients. Rathi Hospital, in a tweet, on Wednesday night, said there was no oxygen supply in their Hospital. “We have 78 patients. No helpline number taking call, instead they are ignoring and cutting our calls. We have been calling since morning,” it said.
On Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also appealed to the Union government to increase the quota of oxygen released to Delhi from 378 metric tonnes to 700 metric tonnes. "We again demand that the Centre increase our oxygen quota to 700 MT in view of the increased consumption. Patients from several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, are admitted in city hospitals," the minister said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also said on Thursday that the quota of oxygen supplied to states by the Union government is not adequate to deal with the crisis of shortage, and appealed to the Union government to up the quota. Later, he added that Haryana CM has assured support in facilitating the transportation of oxygen trucks from Haryana to Delhi.
On Wednesday, the Union government increased Haryana’s quota of oxygen supply following Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar request. From 80 metric tonne per day, it has been increased to 109 MT of oxygen, said Anil Vij, the Haryana Home and Health Minister. The Haryana government also denied allegations that its official stopped the oxygen supply from a plant in Faridabad to Delhi.
Amid the oxygen crisis in Delhi, several hospitals approached turned to the High Court, to seek immediate intervention. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court heard an urgent plea by Balaji Medical and Research Centre, which runs Max Hospitals, which had sought urgent directions with regard to the oxygen supply crisis. Justice Vipin Singhi, who was leading the bench, pulled up the Union government and said, "Citizen can only fall back on the state. So you have to beg, borrow or steal and ensure the protection of fundamental emergency.” Putting the responsibility to ensure oxygen supply on the Union government, the court also ordered the entire supply of oxygen to industries, including steel and petroleum, should be diverted for medical usage if necessary.
Another hospital in the city, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, also moved the Delhi High Court in an urgent plea on Thursday, seeking direction to oxygen manufacturer Inox to supply 3,000 cubic meters of oxygen immediately, as the hospital is facing a shortage. The court also suggested that let Inox continue supplying to Delhi while the Panipat plant continues supplying to Haryana.
The Delhi High Court has issued a contempt notice to Inox Air Supply, which is India’s largest oxygen manufacturer, after it failed to respond to the court’s queries regarding the diversion of oxygen to Delhi raised on Monday. A division bench had directed Inox to honour its contract of supplying 140 MT of oxygen to Delhi, which it has failed to do, the Delhi government alleged.