Covid-19 Crisis: Why the Oxygen Math Doesn't Add Up in Delhi

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On the April 18, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had sounded alarm bells over the impending oxygen crisis in the capital amid an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases. “Del facing acute shortage of oxygen. In view of sharply increasing cases, Del needs much more than normal supply. Rather than increasing supply, our normal supply has been sharply reduced and Delhi's quota has been diverted to other states. OXYGEN HAS BECOME AN EMERGENCY IN DEL,” Kejriwal tweeted.

Thirteen days later, a visibly shaken Kejriwal, only confirmed the worst fears of the citizens — even those who are sick and battling for life in ICUs across Delhi’s hospitals are not guaranteed of their chance at life. Inaugurating the first vaccination drive for the age group of 18+ in the capital, Kejriwal said, “There is a massive problem regarding oxygen. Hospitals across Delhi are sending SOSs, some say they have run out of oxygen, some say they have one hour of supply left, some others say that they have half hour of supplies lift, the condition is worsening.” The chief minister said that the government has informed the courts and also the central government that Delhi’s requirement is 976 MT per day, whereas the allocation is 490 MT, and yesterday the national capital got just 312 MT of oxygen.

Sources within the Delhi government released the figures of oxygen supply vis-a-vis allocation to Delhi in the past one week. From April 25 30, the oxygen supply that reached the capital was 305MT, 408MT, 398 MT, 431 MT, 409 MT and 312 MT.

The distress situation across various hospitals in the capital on Saturday can be linked to the inadequate supply yesterday. Last night, after reviewing the status of oxygen supply in hospitals, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted, “Reviewed the status of oxygen supply in hospitals. The crisis still persists and shall continue till we get sufficient quantity of supply.Not for a single day has Delhi been able to receive the allocated quantity of 490 MT oxygen. Every day is an SOS situation for Delhi.”

Sisodia had earlier written to Industry and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal requesting that the central government not only allocate 978 MT of medical oxygen to Delhi but also arrange the transportation for the same. One of Delhi government ‘s concerns is that approximately 100 MT of oxygen have been allocated from plants in West Bengal and Odisha and the capital has not been able to receive that quota even on a single day.

The per day demand for oxygen in the national capital is 978 MT and the allocation by the centre is 590 MT, an addition of 100 MT but the actual availability on the ground every day is less than half the demand. Cumulative oxygen demand for six days is 5,868MT and the allocation is 3,040 MT while the actual quantity received is 2,263 MT.

All this comes on a day when Batra hospital lost 12 patients, including one of their own doctors as it ran out of oxygen supplies on Saturday. Chief Minister Kejriwal expressed grief over the incident. “This news is very painful. Their lives could have been saved — by giving them oxygen on time. Delhi should get its quota of oxygen. Can”t see our people dying like this. Delhi needs 976 tonnes of oxygen, but it received only 312 tonnes yesterday. How will Delhi breathe in such a less amount of oxygen?” he said on Twitter in Hindi.

The Delhi High Court Saturday directed all hospitals in the national capital to provide information on daily admissions and discharge of COVID-19 patients and of those admitted for over 10 days, since April 1. A concern was raised in the court regarding optimal utilisation of ICU and oxygenated beds and ICU beds in hospitals and nursing homes across Delhi.

A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, which held a four-hour-long special hearing on a holiday on various issues relating to the COVID-19 situation, said it appears there is choking of beds taking place in hospitals and nursing homes. “Looking into the dearth and shortage of beds, particularly oxygen beds and beds in ICU, we consider it necessary to have this aspect looked into as there are allegations of malpractice of patients not being discharged despite having recovered from the COVID-19 disease,” the bench said.

The Delhi High Court, upon learning that the brother-in-law of advocate Amit Sharma, who had petitioned the Court for an ICU bed passed away during the course of the hearing, has already said that the state has failed in performing its fundamental obligation of protecting the most basic fundamental right, that is right to life enshrined in article 21 of the Constitution of India.

On Friday, Delhi recorded 27047 fresh cases which is the highest over the past ten days, 375 casualties and 99361 active cases. The positivity rate in the capital continues to hover around an uncomfortable high of 33%. In the midst of the deepening crisis, the Delhi chief minister extended what he initially termed as a ‘mini lockdown’, for the second time. Delhi government has plans of adding 15,000 oxygen beds and 1,200 ICU beds soon but it is completely dependent on secure supply of oxygen.

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