The shortage of medical oxygen in the national capital region came to a head with one of the largest hospitals, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, reporting on Friday morning that 25 severely ill patients had died in the past 24 hours and 60 other patients were at risk.
Several other hospitals also reported dwindling supplies even as the number of COVID-19 patients mounted. Artemis Hospital in Gurugram sent out at least two public calls for oxygen, while Max Healthcare, with six hospitals and 1,000 beds in the capital region, said at one point that it had less than one hour’s oxygen supply in two major hospitals.
“[Twenty-five] 25 sickest patients have died in last 24 hours at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Oxygen will last another two hours. Ventilators and BiPAP not working effectively. Resorting to manual ventilation in ICUs and ED. Major crisis likely. Lives of another 60 sickest patients in peril. Need oxygen to be airlifted urgently. Governments please help,” the hospital said in a distress statement.
The Delhi High Court, meanwhile, asked hospitals and nursing homes to first contact the nodal officer of the AAP government to meet medical oxygen needs to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. “We would expect all hospitals in the NCT of Delhi to approach the nodal officer Mr. Udit Prakash and such other officers… in the first instance for the purpose of meeting their requirement of oxygen,” the court said.
A Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing petitions by Batra and Bram Health Care hospitals, seeking immediate supply of oxygen.
The distress calls began early in the morning at 9.20 a.m. when authorities at Sir Ganga Ram said an oxygen tanker had reached and was being offloaded.
“This will last four to five hours, depending on consumption,” a hospital spokesperson said. Around the same time, two other hospitals in the city, Max Smart Hospital and Max Hospital Saket, too, said that they had less than an hour’s oxygen supply.
“Less than an hour’s Oxygen supplies at Max Smart Hospital & Max Hospital Saket. Awaiting promised fresh supplies from INOX since 1 a.m. Over 700 patients admitted, need immediate assistance,” the hospital said in a statement.
Later, the Max Healthcare group said it had stopped new admissions in all its hospitals in Delhi-NCR due to low oxygen stocks.
“We regret to inform that we are suspending any new patient admissions in all our hospitals in Delhi NCR till oxygen supplies stabilise,” Max Healthcare said in a tweet.
The group has at least six hospitals in the region and a total of over 1,000 beds.
Other hospitals also announced that they were not taking new admissions due to the oxygen shortage. Around 12 noon, an official from the Holy Family Hospital in Delhi, which had 385 COVID-19 patients,said they had oxygen stock only for a “few hours” and the situation was “precarious”.
Around 2 p.m., Dr. Pankaj Solanki, Medical Superintendent of Dharamveer Solanki Hospital, which has 16 COVID-19 patients, said they had oxygen stock for just two hours.
“We have been told by someone from govt. that oxygen will be given first to large hospitals and then to small hospitals.
“We have also admitted patients and the cost of life cannot be determined by whether the hospital is large or small,” the hospital, which has 50 beds, said in a tweet in Hindi.
In a statement late in the evening, a spokesperson for Sir Ganga Ram Hospital again said: “We have 30 to 45 minutes of oxygen left.”
Hospitals in Delhi have been facing an oxygen shortage for the past six days. The Delhi government has been blaming Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments for not allowing smooth supply of oxygen from private oxygen plants in the States to Delhi.
(With inputs from Ashok Kumar in Gurugram and PTI)