Oxygen crisis: 12 die in Batra Hospital, irate HC asks Centre to supply O2 or face contempt

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New Delhi, May 1 (PTI) Twelve patients at Delhi's Batra Hospital, including a senior doctor, died on Saturday and several other hospitals reported precipitous drops in their oxygen stocks, as the Delhi High Court stepped in and directed the Centre to provide the city with oxygen today itself or face contempt.

With the death of the 12 patients in the south Delhi hospital -- which announced at 12.30 pm that it had run out of oxygen -- the number of hospital patients who have lost their lives in the deepening crisis in the last eight days has gone up to 57.

'Water has gone above the head. Now we mean business. Enough is enough,' a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said and asked the Centre to supply 490 metric tonnes of allocated oxygen to the national capital on Saturday itself or face contempt.

'Do you mean we will shut our eyes to people dying in Delhi?' the bench asked when the Centre's counsel said the oxygen crisis is also before the Supreme Court, which will make its order public on Saturday.

It also declined the Centre's request to defer the order - till Monday or for half-an-hour. The tough-talking court said the Centre has made an allocation of 490 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi and stated, 'You fulfill it'.

As the court heard the case, time was running out for other critically ill patients in Batra and other places.

Batra first reported the deaths of eight, and revised the toll to 12 by evening.

'We are trying to resuscitate five other critical patients,' Dr S C L Gupta, medical director of Batra hospital, told PTI earlier in the day.

Six of the patients who died were admitted to the ICU, he said. Among those who died due to the lack of oxygen were Dr R K Himthani, head of the gastroenterology department who had been admitted to the hospital for the last 15-20 days.

He said the government had sent out SOS messages about oxygen shortage on Saturday. The hospital had informed authorities about lack of oxygen in the morning when only 2,500 litres left. Then, at around 12.30 pm, hospital authorities claimed they had run out of oxygen. The tanker arrived at 1.35 pm.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed his anguish on Twitter.

Describing the news as very painful, he said, '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, he said in his Twitter post in Hindi, needs 976 tonnes of oxygen but received only 312 tonnes on Friday. 'How will Delhi breathe in such less oxygen?' he asked following news of the deaths in Batra.

Delhi government-run GTB Hospital said it had stock till 8 pm while Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital maintained that their oxygen stock would last for four hours.

Sources at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital said their facility has put admissions on hold due to the depleting oxygen supplies.

The hospital has nearly 350 patients and all of them are on oxygen support.

AAP MLA Raghav Chadha said a cryogenic tanker carrying two metric tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) for Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital would reach the facility.

'Hate to say this - but oxygen suppliers have abdicated, and we are using every muscle we've got,' he said on Twitter.

Similarly, a tanker carrying two metric tonnes of LMO for GTB Hospital will also be reaching the facility, Chadha said on Twitter.

'We will spare no effort to secure lives of Delhiites, despite deprivation of oxygen to the NCT of Delhi,' Chadha said.

At 7.35 pm on Saturday, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital also pressed the SOS button as it said it has only 2,500 cubic metres of oxygen left for five hours.

The hospital requires a minimum of 11,000 cubic metre of oxygen per day and has a consumption of 10,000 cubic metres on a daily basis. The hospital has 560 COVID patients.

On April 23, 25 'sickest' patients died at the Ganga Ram hospital. The next day, 20 died at Jaipur Golden Hospital as the frantic hunt for oxygen continued while COVID-19 cases surged.

Just over a week later, the crisis played out in other healthcare facilities in the national capital with hospitals flagging their dwindling stocks.

Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj stopped taking admissions due to oxygen shortage. The hospital has four hours of oxygen left, sources told PTI on Saturday afternoon. According to the Delhi Corona app, the hospital has 106 Covid patients.

Sehgal Neo hospital in Meera Bagh also sent out an SOS message on Twitter about its dwindling oxygen stocks.

'We request urgent assistance in getting #SOSoxygen. We are running out of our backup supply, and have been waiting for a supply since early morning. We have 90 patients on O2 & 13 in ICU,' the hospital said in a tweet around 12.40 pm.

On Friday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said not for a single day has Delhi been able to receive the allocated quantity of 490 MT of oxygen.

On Friday, the city recorded 375 deaths due to COVID-19 and 27,047 fresh cases with a positivity rate of 32.69 per cent. It was the ninth consecutive day of Delhi recording 300 coronavirus-related deaths. PTI GVS/SLB SKV HMP SRY MIN ZMN