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‘We’re helpless,’ says Delhi’s Batra Hospital as 12 Covid patients die of oxygen shortage


Representational image of patients at a Covid treatment facility | Praveen Jain | ThePrint file photo
Representational image of patients at a Covid treatment facility | Praveen Jain | ThePrint file photo


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New Delhi: Twelve Covid patients, including a doctor, died at Delhi’s Batra Hospital Saturday afternoon after it was left without any oxygen for over 1 hour and 20 minutes. 

At least six of the patients were in ICU. The doctor who died has been identified as Dr R.K. Himathani, the head of the gastroenterology unit. The first eight fatalities were reported in the afternoon. At the time, hospital authorities had told ThePrint that efforts were under way to “resuscitate” five-six critical patients affected by the halt in oxygen supply. 

The hospital has over 300 Covid patients. The facility started raising the alarm about its oxygen supply Saturday afternoon. 

Speaking to ThePrint, Batra Hospital Medical Director S.C.L. Gupta said the facility has been in a “precarious situation” for the past one week but were somehow able to manage oxygen last minute. 

“We have been running out of oxygen each day for the past one week. But we somehow were managing things. The oxygen would reach us last minute, sometimes at a delay of 10-15 minutes, but today the delay was of about 1.5 hours and thus we could not save those lives,” Gupta added. 

“It is an extremely helpless situation to see your patients die for lack of oxygen and there is nothing we can do. We tried putting cylinders, but that can only help for a while. One and a half hours without oxygen is a long time,” he added.

Around 1 pm, Batra Hospital Executive Director Dr Sudhanshu Bankata posted a video on Twitter stating that they have run out of oxygen and were making do with some cylinders that would run out in another 10 minutes.

“We are again in crisis mode. The Delhi government is trying to help but believe their tanker is quite far away from our hospital.. let us hope something comes out of this,” he said.

The Delhi government subsequently reiterated its allegation that it is not getting its allocated share of oxygen, even as it said that the oxygen supplier of the hospital would be pulled up. 

Delhi Water Minister Raghav Chadha said the hospital’s “regular supplier of oxygen has defaulted yet again due to alleged ‘lack of oxygen supplies’ and is being pulled up”.

In the tweet, posted at 1.16 pm, Chadha said “our SOS cryogenic tanker carrying Liquid Medical Oxygen is reaching Batra Hospital within five minutes”. 

The tankers, however, reached the hospital by 1.35, the hospital told the Delhi High Court, which is holding hearings into the oxygen crisis in the national capital. Around 230 critically ill patients were without oxygen for around 80 minutes, it said in court.

“We are in SOS since 6 am today morning… we have over 300 patients admitted, out of whom 230 are on oxygen support,” the hospital had told the court.

Taking note of the submission made by Batra Hospital and others, the court directed the central government to ensure Delhi receives its allocated 490 Metric Tonnes (MT) of oxygen supply today “by whatever means”. 

It also said since Delhi is not an industrial state, it doesn’t have cryogenic tankers to transport liquid oxygen, so the central government should arrange for tankers as well.


Also Read: How medical oxygen is supplied to hospitals, and why India is facing an acute shortage


‘Each day is a struggle’

Speaking to ThePrint Saturday afternoon, Batra Hospital medical Director S.C.L. Gupta said the facility has 326 patients, out of which 304 are Covid-19 patients. Out of these, 230 patients require high oxygen flow and 33 patients are in the ICU. 

Each day, Gupta said, is a struggle. “With this kind of patient load, we require about 7,000 to 8,000 litres of oxygen every day. We are, however, getting only 5,000-6,000 litres. Every day is a struggle to get the oxygen supply and in time,” he added.  

“Today we were not able to save these patients because there was a delay. Tomorrow it will be the same struggle again. We shudder to think what if there is a delay tomorrow as well,” he said. 

Five-six patients, he added, are being resuscitated. “While eight patients have died, 5-6 of them are extremely critical. Efforts are on to resuscitate them, since oxygen has now reached us. We are praying that the toll does not increase,” he said.

Oxygen shortage worsens second wave impact

The oxygen shortage at the hospital comes amid similar reports from around the country. India’s battle with the second Covid wave, which saw the country record over four  lakh cases Saturday, has been rendered tougher by reports of oxygen and drug shortages.

India has now ramped up its oxygen supply capacity and also received supplies from other countries in order to ease the crisis.

Amid frequent reports of oxygen shortage from the capital, the Delhi government had alleged earlier that the city is not getting its allocated quota.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reiterated the allegation in light of the Batra Hospital episode Saturday.

Speaking to news agency ANI, he said the government is “getting SOS from across hospitals”. 

“Things are getting very difficult for Delhi. We have told courts and the central government that Delhi’s requirement of oxygen is 976 MT per day and we have been allotted only 490 MT. We are not getting even that much,” he added. “Yesterday we got 312 MT. When we require 976 MT and we get 312 MT, how will it work? Many hospitals are saying that they will have to forcefully discharge patients for lack of oxygen.”

The central government has said there is adequate oxygen in the country, but claimed getting it to hospitals is a challenge.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

This report has been updated to reflect the increased death toll from the oxygen shortage at Batra Hospital


Also Read: What is medical triage & how it could be the way out of India’s oxygen crisis


 

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