Private hospitals in Delhi grapple with limited oxygen supply for COVID-19 patients

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New Delhi, Apr 22 (PTI) Several private hospitals in Delhi struggled to replenish their oxygen supply for coronavirus patients for the third consecutive day on Thursday and requested the city government to transfer such patients to other healthcare facilities.

While some of the hospitals managed to make short-term arrangements, there is no immediate end to the crisis in sight, a government official said.

In a letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said six private hospitals -- Rathi Hospital, Santom Hospital, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, Shanti Mukund, Tirath Ram Shah Hospital and UK Nursing Home -- had exhausted their oxygen supply by Thursday evening.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital sent an SOS to the government, saying there was only five hours of oxygen left at the healthcare facility at 8 pm.

'The oxygen in store is for five hours for peripheral use till 1 am and less for high-flow use. We need urgent oxygen supplies,' an official said.

There are 510 COVID patients, including 142 on high-flow oxygen support, admitted in the hospital located in central Delhi.

The administration at Shanti Mukund Hospital, a 200-bed facility in east Delhi, even put up a notice at the entry gate, reading: 'We regret we are stopping admission in hospital because oxygen supply is not coming.' An official of the hospital said the oxygen supplier could not be contacted. 'There are 110 coronavirus patients in the hospital. We have no option but to send them to other hospitals,' he added.

In the afternoon, officials at Rohini's Saroj Hospital said they have run out of oxygen supply.

'The backup too will not last long. Of the 120 patients in the hospital at present, 70 are in a critical condition,' an official said, adding that many lives will be lost if oxygen supply did not reach the hospital in time.

Dr Sanjeev Sharma, chief operating officer at the Delhi Heart and Lung Institute, said the facility had six hours of oxygen left at 10 pm.

'Supply from Faridabad has been blocked, but the vendor has committed to giving us more oxygen tonight,' he said, adding that 71 patients are on oxygen support.

Officials at the 210-bed Mata Chanan Devi Hospital sent an SOS to the Delhi government as the 'oxygen supplier did not fulfil commitments'.

'Around 40 patients are in the ICU. We got 500 kg oxygen last night. The supplier was supposed to give more at 4 am, but they are not answering phone calls since then,' ICU head Dr A C Shukla said.

'With the Delhi government's intervention, we have got 21 D-type cylinders, but a continuous supply is needed. The situation is very serious,' he added.

Meanwhile, some hospitals received fresh stocks overnight and more is likely to come in soon.

Dr Suresh Kumar, the medical director at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, said three tankers carrying oxygen reached the facility last night.

A spokesperson of the St Stephen's Hospital said they received fresh supplies on Wednesday evening.

Sisodia alleged that the Uttar Pradesh and Haryana police were blocking oxygen transportation to Delhi and urged the Centre to ensure normal supply even if that meant taking the help of paramilitary forces.

This 'jungle raj' has been going on for three days, he said, referring to the alleged blocking of oxygen supply.

'Some hospitals in Delhi have run out of oxygen completely. They do not have any option available. I have been receiving calls, messages, e-mails. We have been making internal, makeshift arrangements, but this cannot continue for long,' the deputy chief minister said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Delhi government is making efforts to airlift its enhanced quota of oxygen supply from Odisha.

He also urged the Centre and the Haryana government to facilitate a 'smooth passage' of vehicles carrying medical oxygen to Delhi. PTI GVS RC